Sunday, September 28, 2008

Why don't they come?

Why don't people go to church? I don't mean people who used to go and now have stopped; that's another topic. I mean those who are supposedly "searching." When I see people around me begin to believe, they often display an aversion towards attending any sort of organized meeting.

Problems in individual congregations are many. But there's a larger issue at stake. Sometimes it seems that the desire to be a part of a worshiping body seems to evade seekers or new believers. And it's not a cultural thing; I have seen it in many places.

What's the problem? Is it the churches themselves? Is it their reputation? Is it the way we witness? I rarely invite anyone to church on Sundays anymore. But I talk about my church all the time. People get interested and start asking when they can visit. But they never come. Some are interested in Bible study and different Christian topics. Bible study is okay, but a church service isn't. Holidays are okay, but regular services aren't. Why?

If God is truly calling a person to himself but the person is nervous about attending a Christian service, can't God drive away that fear? Can't God work despite the imperfections of a church service and reveal Himself irregardless? Is the hesitation an indication of the person's degree of interest?

But most people never even get as far as the church doors. Why is it so difficult?

Recently a "seeker" friend asked to come to church and we had even agreed on a time and place to meet. But then as usual, there was an excuse. Why? I wasn't even forcing her, she had expressed the interest on her own.

The phrase "bring the Church to them" rang in my head. Yet is it an answer? Are "outreach" events the same experience as regular meetings? By simply attending events where Christians gather, will a new believer be able to take root and become a part of the Body? Or will he continue to wander?

7 comments:

  1. Лиза, очень важные вопросы. Ты бы знала, сколько я тоже об этом думал!
    Мне кажется довольно адекватный ответ дается в книге Джима Петерсена "Церковь без стен" ("Church without Wall"). То есть, ответ адекватный, но вот как это осуществить практически...

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  2. Книга в оригинале где-нибудь продается? Или в принципе я могла бы на русском прочитать.

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  3. Не знаю, на счет оригинала тебе должно быть виднее.
    На русском есть у нас дома. Могу дать почитать.

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  4. ОК, принеси, пожалуйста.

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  5. Hey Liz-
    Mary sent me to your website a while ago. I am so pleased that you got to meet!!
    I've really enjoyed reading your blog! God bless your time in St. Petersburg!

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  6. I really like this question, too. I have been in this position, though! The seeking position.

    Thinking back, I remember that I really DID want to be an active believer, but I was somehow afraid of being "trapped" by a set of people I didn't feel at home with. I WAS seeking and was not ready to "talk". Neither did I want to pretend to be something I wasn't. I didn't want focus, or a lot of attention. I did go to church (anonymously), and met a lot of churches that were appalling! Or, at least some initial visits were. I remember in particular one that I attended on an especially needy day. The entire focus of the "service" such as it was, was saying good-bye to a custodian and giving him a gift of lawn furniture, which he opened and unpacked on the sanctuary carpet. I a) felt so "out of it" as I had no idea who this person was, and b) was given no spiritual boost at all. It was like mistakenly wandering into some other family's retirement party.

    On the other hand, there was the church where each visitor actually was made to stand and introduce him/herself. That was otherwise a warm and appealing church in every way, but that "public disclosure on demand" was enough to prevent me ever returning.

    The church that most appealed to me, discovered after several years of searching, was an Anglican congregation. The preaching was wonderful; the music was beautiful; I loved the liturgy. I LOVED sung evening prayer. Then one day I wandered into the library I loved that too! REALLY loved it. Books I found there changed my life.

    It was the church history class that was my undoing there, however. It made me look at the Catholic Church and here I've been ever since.

    I think that when people ask about your church, they are sincerely interested. When they don't visit it is fear of stepping into something they might not be able to tactfully get out of. I mean, after all - if they don't feel at home, or LIKE it - how to pleasantly say they don't want to come again?

    This is important though. My friend Sally worked for the Lord when she was PERSISTENT in asking me to come to her Bible Study. She was sweet, so of course I initially said I'd come, but I feared entrapment, commitment, I made excuses.... She didn't give up! She asked me every time she saw me, I think. Eventually, I ran out of excuses and felt I HAD to go to the Bible Study. Once there I loved it. It was low-key; people weren't overly friendly but they were welcoming and kind. It was perfect, and I found I wanted to come back....though it was a very funny little study to attend as my "first" one - on the minor prophets, of all things.

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  7. Thanks, Sacha!

    Annie, thanks for the comments. I can identify with the church "search." I don't think I've ever felt socially comfortable at any church the first time, but who does? I honestly have never been to a church who has figured out the whole welcoming thing. I guess that's why it's so important to focus on the spiritual content!

    I think you're right about persistence. And receiving a personal invitation also plays a role. When someone takes the time to call you and invite you personally and offers to meet you or give you a ride, that makes a difference. I think.

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