About ten years ago, Annie and I were deeply involved in a church that claimed to be evangelistic and desperately wanted to lead people to God. We devoted ourselves to The Cause and poured hours and hours of our labor into its programs. At one point (I kid you not), I was doing the music on Sunday mornings, keeping track of our procedure for keeping and maintaining new members, leading youth group on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, attending another small group Bible study, and taking a graduate level Seminary class. All of this while having a successful early stage career.
Here’s the problem, looking back on it: I wasn’t growing. Why not? I believe a simple litmus test could have exposed it for me very quickly. It’s a test I have run through my life quite extensively since this experience:
In the past three months, how many people have been in my home that can and will openly but respectfully disagree with my political, religious, or cultural views?
In my overcommitted church days, that was no one outside of my extended family. I was a part of a giant echo chamber. I suppose this is true of a lot of people at church. You hear over and over again in those environments that the key is to be outwardly focused, but then when you actually survey those within the organization itself, many have absolutely no personal contact with those outside of their political, cultural, and religious beliefs.
So do you think of yourself as someone who is growing and tolerant of others? Test out that thought by inviting someone over who doesn’t share your political or religious beliefs, or was born outside of the United States. If you’re like me, doing so will open up a whole new realm of fulfillment and growth.