Churches spend a lot of time figuring out how to get people to come to them. It could be having a young, hip pastor who is entertaining. It could be having the newest contemporary music. Making sure that everyone is dressed casually so a newcomer doesn't feel out of place. A great website. Excellent use of social media. Dropping the name of the denomination publicly so as not to be stereotyped by it (but still belonging to the denomination of course). Above all, church can't be seen as boring.
Christian Piatt recently posted a letter on his blog by a pastor named Zukey Jones, in which he apologies for:
Deceiving myself and others about the real reasons for evangelism. When I am honest with myself my evangelism has a lot to do with recruiting people to share the burden of ministry with their time, talent and treasures.Ouch. Evangelism has more to do with recruiting for workers than for spreading the gospel? Honestly, I can see it. Churches are always in need of more and more volunteers as congregations and programs grow bigger and bigger. And they are in need of more and more money to fund the programs and staff needed to oversee them. And then you have churches competing with each other to get more new people by trying to outdo each other through music or programs or sermons.
I really think churches have it backwards. What they usually do is try to get people to come to them and then develop relationships by getting them "plugged in" somewhere--a small group, a Sunday school class, helping with the youth or children, etc.
Instead, churches ought to focus their efforts on having the people who already come deliberately establish friendships with people who do not--whether or not they ever actually walk through those church doors. Send people out instead of trying to reel people in.
But people are too busy with church activities to really do that. There's church on Sunday morning, some people have church or youth groups on Sunday evening, kids' programs on Wednesdays, maybe a Bible study another night of the week.
It's a lot easier to invite people in than it is to develop meaningful relationships with them outside of the walls of a church building, and, in some cases, if you are not involved at church on multiple days, you aren't seen as committed enough.
But what if...
- Instead of going to church one Sunday morning a month, you invited your neighbors over for brunch?
- Instead of going to the children's program once a month and eating there, you invited your neighbors over for dinner that night?
That's twice per month that you could be spending developing friendships with people outside of your church. And in doing so, you are probably being the church in a much more dynamic and real way than by attending programs and worship services (not that these are bad things, and they do have their place, but more on that later). You are letting other people know that you care about them and that you are willing to give up the legalism of attendance in order to let God's love shine through you.