The American church is seeking the wrong people

Barking up the wrong tree. That's what most American churches are doing (and ours has been no exception). We try to fill our church communities with the wrong sorts of people.

In Matthew 19, a rich and upstanding young man approaches Jesus to see what he should do to inherit eternal life. By the end of their short conversation, Jesus tells the young man to sell what he has, give it away to the poor, and join the band of traveling disciples. The young man declines and goes away sorrowful that Jesus would ask such a thing of him. In essence, he chooses wealth and success over following closely after Jesus.

The Rich Young Ruler is just the kind of person you would want around. He is successful, well connected, and upstanding. He is followed by a track record of good deeds. But his love of his own lifestyle is his fatal flaw. And the thing is, most American churches are out to fill their rolls with just this sort. In fact, many churches are run by Rich Young Rulers who grow older and become known as "elders."

The church in America courts the Rich Young Ruler. He is the prize.

Now think about another character who interacted with Jesus -- the Woman at the Well in John 4. Her reputation is beyond repair, and she has been shunned by her neighbors. However, by the end of her conversation with Jesus, she is rushing back to town to bring everyone to hear Jesus. She initiates a remarkable wave of salvation in that Samaritan town.

The church in America doesn't go looking for the Woman at the Well. In fact, people with ruined reputations are often shunned by the church. Yet she is Jesus' prize. The church in America would do well to fill its rolls with the Woman at the Well.

For some storytelling about how our church was deeply impacted by a handful of Women at the Well, here's an article published in the Covenant Companion magazine.


  1. The season of "going out" is where Patti and I find ourselves in God's Grace these days. Two recent books explain it well, we recommend them, especially for church leaders. Finding Church by Wayne Jacobsen, and Church Refugees by Packard.

  2. DR. Beck, This is so true, If a Pastor had not reached his hand out to me several years ago ... no telling where I would be today.

    1. I wonder how many great people of God could say the same thing.


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