January is the time of year I hate going to the gym the most. Not because I’m fat and lazy from all my wife’s Christmas cookies (okay maybe it has a little to do with that). No the reason I hate the gym in January is because of Resolutioners. You know, all those people who made a New Year’s resolution to get in shape and are now taking up space on the equipment I’ve been using consistently year round. Last week for example, as I was running on the treadmill training for a race in the spring, a man who I’m guessing weighed 400 pounds stepped on the treadmill next to me. Despite the fact that it’s 3 degrees outside, he was already sweating just from the walk in from the car. But there he was, stepping onto the machine next to me, ignoring the gym etiquette of open space between machines if possible; and sets his pace at 2.5 mph. I turned back to watching my treadmill and shook my head. I know he’ll be in my way later. But then I smiled. “Good for him” I thought. I look back at him as he braces himself to begin his journey, and give him a thumbs up. Even if he only makes it till Valentine’s Day like so many of the others, at least he tried.
I see this a lot in health clubs. Despite some of the frustrations of people sweating on machines or grunting loudly or overcrowding for 6 weeks a year, there’s a mutual respect for the people making an effort. People who bench-press 75 pounds work out next to people who bench 250 pounds. No matter who’s on a machine, you allow them to finish. Everyone understands that we’re all there for the same reason. Some people just have different methods and abilities, but we all have the same goal: To be physically fit and healthy.
So as I thought about it I had to ask, why can’t church be this way?
Why can’t we realize that people who come to church all come for the same reasons?
Have you ever heard of a health club that says “We have an image to maintain here. Could you lose a few pounds and trim up before working out here?” Yet churches do that all the time with people as if it were a museum of fine art on display. If you show up not dressed hip enough or with the right discerning eye you immediately reveal your lack of worthiness for the sophistication such places require. Yet if you never let them start somewhere, how will they ever get to that point?
People come to church to connect with God and give Him praise. When someone starts out at a gym you don’t immediately say “the best workout you’ll get is if you run 6.5 mph for 35 minutes on a 2% incline”. Some people’s bodies are naturally made to run, while others are made for weight lifting. Some have naturally great abs, others have pecs and biceps. No matter what your strength or physical giftedness, everyone at the gym respects those other people for the sole fact that they are at the gym putting in work. As Christians why should we treat people at church any different? We bicker about what kind of sermon is best, what music God wants, how to dress, how to pray, how to talk. I got an idea JUST LET PEOPLE COME TO CHURCH!