When a person becomes a Christian, there often is a temptation to “Christianize” his or her entire life. An avid reader, who becomes a Christian, often forms or joins up with a Christian book club where he can share both his love of reading and his new-found faith in Jesus. A Christian lady who loves to quilt might start a Christian quilter’s circle.
The idea is noble: enjoy what you love with like-minded people. It makes sense, too. After all, birds of a feather do flock together. People who make a living out of studying the behavior of people in groups have a name for this phenomenon: the homogeneous unit principle. That’s one reason that there tend to be rich churches, poor churches, white churches, and black churches. We naturally gravitate towards those who are most like us.
This behavior can become a well-intended dragon in the life of a local church. When I gravitate towards people like me, I necessarily drift away from those less like me. Before long, I find that I don’t have any close relationships with those who aren’t in the church, or even those who aren’t like my church.
I don’t know who said it, but I’ve always liked it. Christians are kind of like manure. When you heap them up together, they get hot and stink. When you spread them apart across the world, they really improve things.
I’m grateful for the time that I can share with the people who are most like me, but if I’m going to be salt and light—a disciple-maker—I can’t live in my holy huddle. I have to be like Jesus. He wasn’t sick, but he walked with the lepers. He wasn’t unholy, but he ate and drank with the “sinners.” He is the ultimate example of leaving the huddle to go into the world.
There’s nothing wrong with the “Christian club.” It can be a source of great strength and much-needed encouragement. It can help us in life’s struggles. But if we’re not careful, it can also become an escape from the mission we’ve been assigned or a distraction from our purpose as churches. Let me encourage you to be intentional about being with people who aren’t like you—and sharing the good news of Jesus!