My social media feeds are full of churches boasting about the trendy new initiatives they have begun. I see pictures of Starbucks style coffee bars. I hear about lighting sequences that resemble a Broadway show. I read catchy sermon titles that incorporate movies and popular culture.
On 14th February 2017, my life changed. My husband passed away after a two year battle with cancer.
To say he battled cancer is an understatement. Over the first year he was hospitalized 18 times, for two weeks out of every month. He was rushed to the emergency room eight times and spent hundreds of days separated from our two children. Eventually the chemo, the treatment designed to get rid of the cancer, caused paralysis. For the last four months of his life he was paralyzed and confined to a bed.
But throughout the cycles of chemo, throughout the separation from his children night after night, throughout listening to doctors telling him bad news after bad news, he never once said how much he appreciated the coffee bar at church.
Not once did he say that he loved the lighting in the sanctuary.
He never told me how cool it was that they put a couch on the platform.
He didn’t boast about the use of graphics and props.
Instead, he talked about Jesus. He quoted scriptures. He reminded me of sermons we had heard. In the middle of the long nights he sang songs of praise and worship to God. He spent his remaining time praying. Because nothing a church does to strategize to bring in new members will help you in the time of the storm. It’s only Jesus.
On February 13th I had the most difficult task of telling my children their dad was not going to make it. The next day at 7:24 the doctors declared him dead. And as I lay next to my children at night listening to my daughter sob uncontrollably because she misses her dad so much I am not thinking about how trendy my church is. I am thinking that my strength comes solely from God.
I don't have my best friend with me anymore. And even though I take comfort in knowing he is in heaven, the reality is that I can't talk to my husband. I can't text him during the day. I can't share with him my frustrations. I can't hold his hand. I can't hug him. I can't kiss him. He is not here.
As I drive to church I am not grateful that the leaders are reading "how to grow your church" books and adopting cool sermon series. I am thinking how desperately I need Jesus.
As I look at two young children who now have to grow up without their amazing dad by their side, I am not remembering how it was so awesome that the minister related the message to a Hollywood film. I am thinking of how much I need Jesus.
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 don't want to see a trendy pastor on the platform
When I walk into church I am not paying attention to the décor. I don't want to smell freshly 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.
Since my husband died, my days are spent working full time. My nights are spent homeschooling and taking care of two young children. I don't have shared duties with a spouse anymore so everything is on my plate. When I go to church I desperately want to hear the Word of God.
There are days when the tears won't stop and a trendsetting church is not what I need.
This is not a criticism of churches that have coffee bars, nice lighting and catchy sermon titles. But, in everything that is done, we need to make sure that Jesus is at the centre. It is also a reminder that there are hurting people sitting in your congregation.
There are people whose marriages are crumbling, people whose finances are deteriorating, people whose children are rebelling and people like me, whose husband has passed away after a brutal fight with cancer. And these people are not impressed with the stage lighting. They could care less about the coffee flavour. They don't need to be pumped or hyped. They need Jesus.
My social media feeds are full of churches boasting about the trendy new initiatives they have begun. Their coffee bars and lighting don’t appeal to me.
I want to see how Jesus has changed a person's life. I want to see the power of prayer. I want to see how the Word of God can be applied to life. I want to see how Jesus can help the hurting. I want to see how Jesus can heal the sick. I want to see how a broken heart is restored. I want to see how mourners are comforted. I want to see how lives are restored.
I am thankful I attend a church that focuses on prayer and the word of God. I am thankful that in one of the darkest moments of my life I knew I could count on others to pray with me.
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 settings. They don't need couches on the platform. Instead, 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.
And a message to church leaders: Remember that you are not just trying to attract the hip and the cool to your church. You are reaching widows. You are reaching children who don't have a parent. You are reaching someone battling with a disease. You are reaching a person going through a divorce. You are reaching a businessman who thinks they have all that they need. You are reaching the hurting. And the only thing they need is Jesus.
Kimberli Lira blogged through her husband Melchor's battle with cancer. She continues to share this new stage of life where she is a widow decades before she anticipated. This article was originally published on her blog, A Young Widow's Story