On February 14, 2017, Kimberli Lira lost her husband after a two-year battle with cancer. During his treatment, he endured several cycles of chemotherapy that forced him to be hospitalized and away from his two young children, and the chemo ultimately left him paralyzed. In a blog post for Peace in the Midst of the Storm, Lira described the pain of watching her husband’s condition deteriorate and the struggles she has faced since his passing. She also candidly shared the frustration she feels watching the rise of trendy, social-media friendly churches that she believes are more concerned with attracting “hip” attendees than preaching the Word of God.
She has a simple message for church leaders strategizing about new fangled ways to reach people: stop worrying about catchy sermons and mood lighting and start worrying about Jesus.
“More and more on my social media feeds I have been seeing a lot of churches boast of the cool, trendy new initiatives that they have begun. I have seen pictures of coffee bars that resemble Starbucks. I have seen lighting that resembles one seen on Broadway. I have read catchy sermon titles and have seen how people have brought the movies into their sermons,” Lira wrote. “In so many of these posts, I see all that churches are doing to attract new members, but I don’t hear them talking about the power of Jesus.”
Lira explained that while her husband was undergoing treatment and living out his final days, he wasn’t interested in the amenities his church was offering, but he was interested in reading Scripture and talking about the healing power of Jesus.
My husband endured cycle after cycle of chemo. He was separated from his children many nights. He was hooked up to chemo for 24 hours at a time. He listened to the doctors tell him bad news after bad news. He was left paralyzed and unable to get out of bed. And he never said how much he wished our church would incorporate coffee bars like many others were. Never once did he say he wished the lighting in our sanctuary resembled the lighting he saw other churches boasting of on social media. He never told me how cool it was that churches were putting couches on the platform. He didn’t boast of the graphics and props on the platform that some churches were incorporating. He talked about Jesus. He quoted scriptures. He reminded me of sermons we had heard. And in the middle of the night he sang songs of praise and worship to God and he spent his time praying. Because nothing a church does to strategize to bring in members helps you in the time of the storm. It is only Jesus.
With heartbreaking candor, Lira shared that no amount of coffee, or “cool” ministers, or “catchy” sermons will bring her husband back or comfort her children as they cry about missing their dad. Praying for the God’s strength, however, will help ease the pain.
As she continues to mourn her husband’s death, Lira hoped that pastors and ministers would stop reading the “how to grow your church” books and start worrying about how to comfort and support the widows, the cancer patients, the divorcees, the children who lost a parent, and the people going through tough times:
When church leaders sit around and discuss how they can reach people, I don’t think they have the widow in mind. I don’t think they have the cancer patient in mind. I don’t think they have the children who are growing up without a parent in mind. I am not paying attention to the church décor when I walk through the doors. I don’t want to smell fresh brewed coffee in the lobby. I don’t want to see a trendy pastor on the platform. I don’t care about the graphics or the props on the platform. I am hurting in a way that is almost indescribable… when I go to church, I desperately want to hear the Word of God.
Because there are days I am running on empty and a coffee bar in the lobby isn’t filling me up. There are days when the pain is so brutal and a concert like setting is not providing healing. There are days when the tears won’t stop and a trendsetting church is not what I need. I need Jesus. There are days I wonder if the pain is ever going to end and a couch on the platform is not providing answers.
The lighting, coffee bars, relevant messages, graphics and other things are secondary and serve no assistance to me during the darkest hour of my life. This is in no way a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. However, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the center. It is also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation… They don’t need to be pumped or hyped. They need and are desperate for Jesus. And they may actually be turned off by all that they consider gimmicks to get people to go to church…
The church does not need any more coffee bars. They don’t need the lighting. They don’t need the concerts. They don’t need the trend setting. They don’t need couches on the platform. They don’t need to dim the lights to attract people. Tell a person how God has changed your life. Show them the love of God through your actions. Demonstrate how God helped you through the darkest of storms.
“Church leaders, remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church,” she concluded. “You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.”
Read the full blog post HERE.