Jijo comes to the fellowship for the first time after a while. He enters the youth group sanctuary and sits in to listen to the pastor. As the service continues, he cannot help but notice the flashy looks and swag in the dorm/ hall. He overlooks that because, hey, everyone has their style, right!? Slowly he starts noticing his neighbour looking at his shoes and sizing him up as the preacher goes on. There is a sneer on his neighbour’s, and once when their eyes lock, she looks away and whispers to her neighbour something. Then they giggle and spare a cheeky glance at him. After the service, he notices several clicks- young people bundled in groups of five and ten. They seem to enjoy their conversations together. He stands for like fifteen minutes and realizes that everyone is going on with their business as if he does not exist. Oh, never mind that visitors were asked to raise their hands for recognition during the service. Well, maybe it was an exercise to fulfil all righteousness.
The pastor walks from the pulpit towards his direction. He makes a brief stop (Jijo’s heart leaps with joy because the pastor has at least noticed his loneliness), shakes his hand with a big smile and says, “Jijo, welcome to our fellowship. I hope it went well with you. Come again next week. Or for Bible study on Wednesday.” Jijo is about to say ‘thank you then the pastor turns away with excitement to two young people (brother and sister) and hugs them! These two are children of the area politician! The pastor goes and never comes back to continue the chat with Jijo. Jijo looks around and realizes that he does not have that class, neither does he attend the posh schools where the other kids attend. He is crushed and concludes with bitterness in his heart, “Church sucks!”
This scenario is familiar to many young and older adults alike. The place where fellowship needs to draw the lost and give them warmth and hope has become a place of demeaning attitudes and segregation. Have you heard of these things in your fellowship? What are these dividing classifications that exist in the Church today?
The world is not balanced- at least concerning social classes. We have the high class who seem to have all the world can offer and more. They live in luxurious homes and estates and own many flamboyant things imaginable. We have the middle class who make most of the metropolitan communities. They own much, but not as much as the high class. Most of them tend to bundle up together because they find some sort of safety and pride among themselves. They may not have made it to the top, but they make much of their current status, almost as a way of proving that they are worth reckoning. Then we have a low class who hardly own as much. They know hardship to the core. They do not have luxuries as the last two groups, and they are hardened in many ways. They take a day at a time and do not have time to compare themselves with other people. Life comes and goes, and that is how they live- a day at a time. Now, in all these social classes, there is a godly remnant whose hearts have experienced the salvation of the cross. Not all of them have the stereotypical behaviour mentioned above, though those make a small percentage in the fellowship.
Galatians 3:28 tells us that, in Christ, there is no Greek, Jew, slave or free, but all are one in Christ. From where do these social classes come? Are they not a work of the flesh and selfishness? Christ did not create the Church to make others feel on top, and others trampled underfoot. The Church is the only place where everyone is made equal and stripped of their class and glory. When young people come together in the fellowship, there ought to be a union by the spirit that will make people like Jijo want to come back again. Why? Because whatever walls we may have, Jesus broke them down by dying for all at the cross (Ephesians 2:14). We are all like grass- very frail and disappearing without notice (1 Peter 1:24, Psalm 103:15), and no matter how we live, we still die! Why would we want to glory in grass-like things? Looks and perishable wealth? History reminds us that as quick as we get social class, as quickly it disappears from us.
Objectively, social classification among fellowship members is a sign of spiritual immaturity from hearts that want to look like they love God, but they do not (Isaiah 29:13). Secondly, it is an expression of selfishness and pride. Jesus warned us to keep our treasures in heaven where moth and rust and thieves cannot steal and destroy (Matthew 6:19-24). If we claim salvation by grace through faith, then we know it is time for us to ask the Lord to bend our hearts and mould us into his likeness. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).
One of the distinct characteristics of the disciples was that they were considered uneducated men by the leaders of the land (Acts 4). Paul was a learned man by all standards, being part of the Pharisee’s league before conversion (Philippians 3). Like it was on the point above, the issue is not that academics are bad, but that when it becomes the basis for fellowship, it loses its ground no matter how high one is ranked. We have the government system’ fellas who have gone through the 8-4-4 system here in Kenya. Some have gone through the top tier schools, others through the bottom tier schools in that segment. Then there is the IGCSE and other international school systems. I have no idea if they have their rankings. I am sure they do. If you are like me, these classifications make up divisions in many youth groups. The question is, ‘Does it matter?’ Is it anything to beat our chests about in the confines of Biblical Church fellowship (I am saying Biblical because there is a type of fellowship that is not Biblical)?
Some have scaled their academic ladders, have attended prestigious universities, and have done the so-called ‘prestigious courses. We also have the basic Certificate and Diploma students, the Degree students and the Master and PhD students. It is interesting how such things can form divisions in the fellowships. It seems small, but the effect is ravishing the impact of the local Church to those they ought to reach out to with the Gospel. Remember Jijo? Many more like him in our communities have concluded that ‘Church sucks’ because they experienced this kind of rejection.
With all this happening, we have a neglected class created in our fellowships. They are there in our fellowships yet, due to the divisive classifications that we silently or blatantly push forward, they sit quietly and go unnoticed. They are those that Jesus would want us to reach out to because their voices cannot be heard in the drowning presence of class and pride. It is an insult to injury to know that these divisions happen under the name of ‘fellowship’ or ‘church’. The neglected class come to Church and sit at the back and bow their heads low. When service or Bible study ends, they sneak out unknowingly and disappear into the thin year for another week. Meanwhile, the pastor, his leaders, and the congregation keep their selfish warmth to themselves and miss out on the opportunity to make Christ come alive in the lives of the needy. They are like the old lady who gave all her wealth- a penny after many well-off leaders had poured in their wealth in the offering bag (Mark 12:41-44). Oh yes! They are like the wasted Lazarus eating breadcrumbs from beneath the table of the rich man. I usually wonder, “Were there not servants to the rich man who had a compassionate heart for Lazarus?” Then I think maybe they had their class as well! They are like the tax collectors, prostitutes, and other sinners whom Jesus was accused of hanging out with by the so-called ‘essential’ citizens.
Does Church suck? Well, if the above issues are factual, then to the unbeliever, it sure does! We need to join Christ in tearing down the walls of separation that have caused many to misunderstand the fellowship- blood-bought fellowship of Jesus Christ.
Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
The Church is the only place that God has provided where all the social and academic classifications are levelled. The high and lowly ones all find a standard ground at the foot of the cross where everything is regarded as ‘dung’ for the priceless gain of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord. Our focus is Jesus Christ! He is the reason why we need to kill our pride and selfishness and make Church a place where anyone who comes is baffled by the reception and glued by the love they experience. Christ created the Church. Christ will sustain it to draw men and women to Christ before it is received back to Christ for God’s glory! Anything other than that is unbiblical and ungodly. Let us change, won’t we?