Yesterday was “National Back to Church Sunday” a nationwide movement to encourage Christians to invite friends and relatives to attend church with them. Yesterday was also a day for churches to reach out to absentee Christians to reconnect with a local church and begin attending again. While I wholeheartedly agree that Christians are woefully failing at inviting and encouraging others to come attend church with us and that absentee believers belong in fellowship together, I have to wonder if regardless of how well-intentioned yesterday’s events were, if it really didn’t miss the problem and the real question all together.
Why is it that more people don’t attend church and equally as important why do those who have attended suddenly stop attending church all together?
I have to ask this…. before you invite and encourage people to come to your church shouldn’t you first make sure that you actually have something they will want to come be a part of?
For me it means that we as the local church, regardless of denomination, have to have something worth sharing and something worthy of the invitation. Sadly way to many churches are lacking in the character, content and commitment to developing and promoting authentic Christianity. Our church’s are seen as clicks where those on the inside leave new comers and others feeling left out. Our sermons are so tightly packed with our idea of correct theology that pastors end up talking over the congregation instead of talking to and with them. Our outreach and missions are stale and we’ve watered down the very definition of those words so suddenly anything and everything is a “ministry”. When the majority of people taking part in an event or activity either belong to your church or to other churches in your area that is not outreach and ministry, that’s a coffee klatch. When did we get comfortable with not actively seeking new faces for our churches? Are we as Christians that anti-social that we prefer our own company instead of that of our unsaved neighbors?
Am I making you uncomfortable yet?
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. Luke 8:15 (New International Version)
I am reminded of the parable of the sower told in three of the four Gospels. The sower scatters seeds which fall in a variety of places having very varied results in the effective growing. Only the seed sown into the good soil, the fertile ground, grows to produce a crop. So is the same for us as churches and as individuals.
For many of us our churches are not fertile soils ready for planting seeds that will grow and produce fruit. If we were honest with ourselves and with each other we might have to admit that we have rocks and thorns and even some weeds that are getting in the way of our being effect witnesses and nurturers of those who attend our services.
Gardening and farming is difficult work. It is tiresome, backbreaking, even dirty work at times. So too is ministering to others and if we as Christians are not willing to labor and toil in the fields of service how do we expect to have a decent harvest. You can’t be lazy and be a successful farmer, we can’t be lazy Christians either. This means we can’t do the same failed programming over and over and expect new results or worse take tired old ideas and add some new clip art and titles and expect it to be received as the newest thing on the block.
It’s time for the church to deliver on our promises. It’s time for us to work the soil and ensure we have a rich and nurturing environment where people can be genuinely ministered to and encouraged to grow.
It’s time for us to get some fertile ground.