I recently read an interesting article by a young person who returned to church after being gone for ten years. The most fascinating portion of the article for me was a list of things that did NOT influence his decision. They were:
- I didn’t care that much about the preaching.
- It didn’t matter to me that there wasn’t an elaborate music program.
- I was all right with the fact that there weren’t tons of small groups to instantly “plug in” to. In fact, I just wanted to hang out with people I liked, and who cared about me.
- I didn’t care what denomination the church was a part of.
- I didn’t care about whether they had doctrines or creeds they all agreed on.
- I didn’t care if the carpet was nice, the garden was manicured or the bathrooms smelled like lilacs.
Take a careful look at that list. Isn’t just about everything that we think draws folks to church listed? Before reading any further, stop and consider why you attend the church that you attend. If you don’t attend or if you attend without much enthusiasm, consider why that is as well.
INVITATION: The author of the article indicates that he would not have returned if someone who showed evidence of a changed life and who mattered to him had not invited him. All the marketing in the world is of no affect if one person doesn’t give someone a good reason (by their example) to go.
WELCOMED: A person stays at a church he visits if he feels loved. He must be sincerely greeted, unconditionally accepted, patiently listened to. It’s more important what happens between the folks in the pews that what happens up front.
PLUGGED IN: A persons stays in church if he has a sense of ownership in what’s happening. Folks need to contribute. This is perhaps the greatest challenge to provide meaningful ministry to everyone who attends, to not just fill the pews but to accomplish a mission.
DEEPER MEANING. I can’t say it better than the author of the article did: “One reason I was so willing to walk away from religion when I did was because there seemed to be two fundamental messages I heard, week after week. And after seventeen years, that got pretty old. The two themes were:
- If you died tomorrow, do you know where you’d spend eternity? or;
- Jesus could come back any day. It could be today or even tomorrow, so you’d better get yourself right with God.
I don’t really need a church to help reassure me I have some kind of divine fire insurance policy, or that God loves me in spite of the fact that I actually suck deep, down inside. I was more interested in finding deeper meaning in this life, rather than worrying so much about what comes after that.”
This is a message the Lord has been pushing on me recently: the importance of reminding folks that He came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Not that we would have more things, but that we would have more joy in our life. That comes from participation.
BELONGING: I once started a teaching by playing the theme from the TV series “Cheers.”
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
The author of the article said it this way: “ I wanted to find a group of people passionate about things that mattered to me, and who would make a space for me, regardless of whether we agreed on everything, or if I gave enough money, or if I had signed my name in some official book.”
I think the bottom line is this. We are really all pretty much the same. If we carefully consider what we want in a church, we will know what others want. We want to know that our problems are not unique and that there is a solution. We don’t accomplish that by dressing up pretty and never admitting we have a problem. We do it by being honest and vulnerable and by listening to and loving each other.
Doesn’t that sound really good?