As a missionary, I am constantly attempting to not offend people.
Not the little things - I mean, I know that I offend people when I stand in front of a window (in slavic cultures all sickness is derived from being in the way of a draft. Even in 100 degree weather train windows are kept closed because the draft will kill people.) I know that when I eat, I eat like an American and this sometimes offends people...
No, I'm talking about the big things. I prolong the conversation and save the bad news for last. When I'm preaching the gospel I slam down the parts that they can accept and I push back the parts that they might reject. I'm so afraid of losing people.
In small group we're talking about the rich young ruler. It's beyond my imagination that Jesus just lets this guy walk away. He's charismatic, connected, and faithful. You could sprout up 10 churches around this kid. But after their encounter, Jesus just watches him walk away.
I wonder what things would look like if I were to be fully honest. If we greeted people at the door and said, "Welcome, you have to be willing to die in order to come here." "Hi, my name's Michael - are you ready to drink the Kool-Aide?"
What if our membership policies actually demanded radical faithfulness? My mentor believes that a church's average attendance should be much higher than the membership number. There should always be a couple of dozen regular attenders that just aren't ready to commit to the level required to be a member. I don't know how I feel about that.
[Membership is something from a by-gone era to people of my generation. If we're there every week and we're giving our tithe; we are a member. We don't need a piece of paper to prove that. If the United Methodist church is radically successful in reaching my generation - average attendance will increase while membership continues its downward spiral.]
What if we genuinely asked our people to make the hard sacrifices required of the Gospel?
1. I bet that more poor people than wealthy would be willing to take this challenge.
2. I bet that there would be a huge domino effect.
3. I bet that there would be huge internal division and eventually a split resulting from this.