“Come As You Are” Culture

Written by cycleguy on August 11th, 2010

In my most recent post here one of the comments mentioned a “come as you are culture” in the church.  One my responders, Ani, is from Netherlands and asked what that meant.  Rather than just answer her in a comment I thought I would take a stab at it and then allow for you all to be involved also.  If you read the post, I mentioned a quote from John Burke’s book No Perfect People Allowed.  Jason commented about the book and the “come as you are culture” message of that book (which I also mentioned in my post).   So…here goes.

A “come as you are culture” in a church goes so far beyond “attracting” people to the church.  It really has nothing to do with the way a building looks or the dress of the people who come or aesthetics or even of the music that is played.  I think it is a “mindset” that the people develop toward others.  It is, for lack of a better phrase, what makes the church “tick.”   Let’s be honest and say that superficial things can draw people but those will eventually wear off.  The building can be the latest “industrial look” building.  The music can be top-notch and played to the style of the people you are wanting to reach (rock, country, hip-hop, hymns, or whatever).  A church can have the latest kid’s program/ Kid’s Kountry play area.  Those are all well and good.  But that is not what the church is to be about!  There is no denying that is part of the church’s culture but John puts a great spin on  what culture truly is:  “the sum of all behaviors, attitudes and styles of the people, programs, and services.”  And while I agree with that definition, I still think that what really matters and truly shows the culture of a particular church are the people.  Do they truly accept people “as they are?”  Do they overlook the tats, the clothes, even the different faiths of those who come, in order to reach out to them with the love of Jesus.  It will definitely require a non-judgmental attitude in the heart of the people  Now…please don’t misunderstand me here.  I am not talking compromising the Truth.  I would jump away from suggesting that in a heartbeat.  What I am saying is that the church needs to see people for who and what they are rather than what we expect them to be.  Several of those who commented said it well: we have too often given the idea that Christians ought to be perfect and we even come off as not having any sin, or in the least of having “our act” together.  Sorry to disappoint people at OVCF or here: I am one who does not have his act together.  I can act with the best of them but all that does is make me a liar and a hypocrite, the very things I push/preach against.  So…all that to say…a “come as you are culture” comes from the heart and can’t be conjured up by having a fancy-dancy kid’s program or dynamite music.  It can’t even come from having a great communicator in the pulpit (which I fall far short of).  It is dependent, however, on the non-judgmental, non-critical, “open-minded” hearts of those who attend.  And that is just talking about those who attend the church building and not what the church is all about every other day of the week. That, as they say, is another topic for another day.

So, what are your thoughts?  Have I missed the boat and given a misrepresentation of my original thought?  Please say so if I have.  I would also like to hear some of your thoughts if you have the time to share.  Help Ani understand what a “come as you are church culture” is.


29 Comments so far ↓

  1. Jaycee (E.A) says:

    “What I am saying is that the church needs to see people for who and what they are rather than what we expect them to be.”

    I agree with this phrase extracted from your quote. To do anything less than accepting people for who they are, prevents the exhibition of the kind of love Jesus spent His days on earth teaching about. He embraced the Samaritan woman at the well, He prevented people from stoning the adulterous woman, He dined at a tax collector’s house.

    He never encouraged their sins, but He welcomed them with love. If we are to be Christlike, then the church needs to embrace this non-judgmental attitude.

  2. Bill,

    I think you are doing a great job of explaining it. “Come as you are” really means that we aren’t concened at all about your experience or your baggage – but rather the enrichment of our community because you are here.

    You can search my blog (if you are so inclined) for the word “naked” for a post I wrote as I began to codify my own understanding of “come as you are”.

    Good stuff, Bill.

  3. Bill, in love – get twitter so I can retweet your stuff easier 🙂 I want to spread the love about your writing.

  4. jasonS says:

    I think you summed it up well. It’s being able to get past appearances and struggles and see the person underneath and respond as Jesus would (i.e. love and compassion). That doesn’t mean nobody changes, but we give grace as much as we accept it and we let God do the work (as we trust Him for ways to be conduits of grace and discipleship). I always appreciate hearing these thoughts. Thanks Bill.

  5. cycleguy says:

    Jaycee: Totally agree with you on Jesus’ reaction to people. I believe it stands out that His most critical words were for the religious leaders not the common folks. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. cycleguy says:

    Herb: thanks for the encouragement. Good to know I am on the right track. 😛

    About Twitter: I appreciate you speaking in love but 1) my phone is old and I text but not on a keyboard. 2) I don’t know if I am “up” to it. I do thank you for wanting to share my stuff. I would say “have at it” but since I don’t know how Twitter works I don’t have a clue how things are passed on. Is there a way it can be put into my blog?

  7. cycleguy says:

    Jason: I think your key words were “we give grace.” Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. You don’t have to have a phone at all for twitter – in fact, the mobile use of twitter was really an afterthought.

    If you can use a blog on your PC, you can use twitter.com. You “follow” people and people “follow” you – you can see what people you follow are “tweeting” and they can see what you “tweet.”

    As for getting it on your site, you can add the digg-dig plugin and it will let people retweet your stuff, even share it on facebook.

  9. cycleguy says:

    Thanks Herb. I forwarded your email to my techgeek to have him take a look at it. 🙂 I am somewhat technologically challenged. 😀

  10. Jim F. says:

    I think you hit the nail on the head.

    I do not use twitter on my phone but only on the computer – it is a good tool for making more connections.

  11. Cameyg says:

    Bill.. I think you’re spot on with this one! Spot on!

    FYI: I do more of twitter from my computer than my phone. But I don’t necessarily “tweet” (that’s what it’s called when post something to twitter) as much as most who do it.

    Much love & dangerous prayers!

  12. Cameyg says:

    Bill… Guilty as charged!!

    BTW: Finally got the internet all squared away at the house. Now I’m not spending so much time in my pastor’s office at the pcb across the street! lol

  13. It seems as if I represent a group of people here that many may not realize exists. I came from a church where it was expected that when woman came to church they were to were skirts only. Those who did not adhere to this rule would be judged and spoken against sometimes from the pulpit. The only acceptable Bible was the KJV, Godly men only wore their hair short and tapered on the side and back, if you came as you are then you better show the fruits of God in you by conforming to the standard of outward excellence that was required or else…be prepared to be ostracized. This created a breeding ground for shame, fear, ” Phariseeism” ( Its my new word) and a whole host of parasites. I love the saying, church isn’t a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. The argument has always been from where I come from is if you come as you are you must obviously not be saved because if you are saved you would look the part. I am just now healing from this all and learning God made us unique wonderful weak characters who offer much to the body of Christ when we bring to the church house who God made us to be. Am I condoning sin, no, I am just saying like you said SO eloquently, we do not change anyone, a true change of heart must come from the Holy Spirit’s work in someone, our job is to love the body, HIS job is to do the changing.

    • cycleguy says:

      Julie: Everyone needs to hear your story. Although I did not come from that background, I know some who have and still bear the scars. My favorite book, Wisdom Hunter, is based on that legalism happening to the author. You are right: it is nothing more than Phariseeism. So glad you are out of that mess and finding freedom in grace and in the true love of Jesus. thanks for the comment.

    • Cameyg says:

      Julie: So glad you shared that! Praying for you as you continue to heal from it. Praying for all that were/are a part of that. While not as strict as yours, one of the churches I was at when younger was similiar. I do not miss those days but have certainly learned from them!

  14. Michelle says:

    I did not read all the comments, but we used to go to a church that was good at attracting people. heck, it attracted us when we went looking for a church. They were great at socializing and being friendly, but then when you got “in” there, you realized they did not love like they acted. They were judgmental. I am going to fess up right now and say I ooze sin. I just do. I am angry and sad and depressed and that shows in me because I don’t hide those things. And people don’t like it either. So I’m honest about who I am and I don’t like I’m this way, but when people see this they run the other direction. It really affected me when I would see them ignoring my kids because of how they viewed me. Other kids were invited to things, but not my kids. That was my final straw and I high tailed it out of there and never looked back. A lot of people told me that I should have just stayed and prayed for them, but when it comes to my kids being neglected, I just could not. Anyway, my point of all that is…sorry I ramble..to say that they did a great job getting you in, but then they sacrificed truth and acceptance. It was weird because they would accept some people really well and others, like myself, not so much. And I still don’t like church even though ours is ok. I just don’t feel like I am a people person…but its ok for now. We’ll see what happens.

    • cycleguy says:

      Michelle: I think your experience is more common than many churches would like to admit. Sort of like the James 3 story. I believe you did the right thing by high-tailing it out of there. No sense in continually putting yourself and your kids in the same position week after week. BTW: I did not see it as a ramble. 🙂 Praying for you.

    • Zee says:


      just a week ago we discussed this issue during our church board meeting. we were talking about how kids have seen us in the camp wearing shorts and having fun when someone said “well, what if they come to Church and see some things differently? like we usually dress up for Sunday and we don’t really jump around during worship…” i just looked and said “why do kids have to see us acting differently? unless one pretended in the camp, nothing will really change.”

      i guess that if we will be ourselves while striving to be who God wants us to be, every day would be a Sunday – not necessarily dressed up or perfectly manicured / haircut… just us, the people whom God created and who want to serve Him. and God sees us through – we can’t hide behind a white shirt / black pants outfit from Him.

      back to the post – “come as you are” is basically trying to see people as God sees them.

  15. Ani says:

    Wooow! thanks! Now I read your post I can bang my head why I didn’t understand it right away. I love it. A church where it says “come as you are”. But I think this also has to be at our house. My prayer is always that everyone who enters my house will see it as their home and that the Holy Spirit fills it with His peace. Come as you are. I like that phrase more and more. Thank you Bill, and others.

    • cycleguy says:

      Glad we could help Ani. And you have the right idea. The church is not a building and we should practice “come as you are” all the time. You’re welcome.

  16. Bill, excellent thoughts (and the comments as well). All I have to offer today are the words of an old Hymn…Just as I am

    Just as I am, without one plea,
    but that thy blood was shed for me, and that thou bidst me come to thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

    That was me, 47 years ago…Just as I was

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