When we first planted Compass Point Church four years ago we knew it was going to be somewhat of a struggle. Because of certain hyper-Charismatic, “prosperity-teaching” mega-churches in town…most of Lakeland’s perception of church was not good. The reputation of these churches was that money was the main motivator for doing ministry…and people were a distant second. Amid the scandals, failed marriages, three-ring circus atmospheres, rumors of affairs, millionaire pastors and slick marketing…more people were hurt by these churches than helped. With the hurt came the general consensus around town that church sucked. Inviting people to come to church normally included a long disclaimer that went something like…”but we aren’t like that Without Ignited Carpenter Walls Family Worship Prosperity Movement Laughing Revival Kick You In The Face To Cure Cancer Church up the street…we are different”. Recent events in Lakeland have only served to solidify the “church sucks” reputation…and create even more hurt to disconnected people.
Over the last several weeks I have had dozens conversations with disconnected people that left me shaken…thinking and praying. In each of these conversations…among the general chit-chat…I mentioned that I pastored a church here in Lakeland. They would ask me what church…at which point I would pull out a red Compass Point invite card and tell them about us. Sometimes in the conversations I would get to hear them say those familiar words…”but church sucks”. I would see the pain…the disgust…the lack of trust…in their eyes. I’d explain that we were different…anyone…with any background…that dressed or looked anyway…could come to Compass Point.
They weren’t buying it…they’d been down the “church road” before…and been burned. I would hear horror stories about how they were treated as outcasts because of their lifestyle, the way they dressed, the length of their hair, that fact they were not dressed up, the tattoos on their arms, because they couldn’t give much financially, the piercings on their face, the music that they listened to, their age…and the list goes on and on. Over a dozen times in the last three weeks I have heard the words “church sucks” from disconnected people that have given up on church…and God.
I’m tired of Lakeland..and the world…thinking that “church sucks”. The time has come for us to help change people’s opinion about church. Church is place for people…hurting people…to come to discover the saving grace of Jesus Christ…no matter how they dress, what their background is or how much money they have. Church has got to be a place where boredom retreats and Truth shines forth. Church needs to be where families can grow closer, people can grow more loving and the Kingdom of God can grow in number through people accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior. In essence…we have to begin to tell Lakeland…to show Lakeland…and the world that…church doesn’t suck.