I’ve been asked this question by friends who look at our churches and recognize that much of our growth is really transfer from other churches or areas of the country. In some cases this is positive movement from milk to meat – that is less mature teaching to more Biblical preaching. However, reaching the lost and reaching out to those who are not a part of our fellowship is the heart of the gospel. How can they believe without hearing the word (Romans 10:14)?
Our culture has become more secularized. Where do you start when inviting someone to church? We are called to make disciples to the ends of the earth and that includes our salty neighbors down the street.
Often churches take a programmatic approach with seeker friendly services, praise styles and times. “Invite-a-friend” Sundays or seasonal events give parishioners an open door for an invitation. And though postcards for our Easter and Christmas services might draw people in, what we need most is to relate the building where we meet to the felt needs of relationship, value and purpose that we have met in Christ.
An objection I hear rising is that we can make disciples without converting people to become members of our particular church. That is true. And what is the mark of a believer? The fruit they produce. And what are some ripened out-workings of an inner change by faith? Love for other believers (1 John 4 & 5), and gathering together (Hebrews 10:25). Therefore church attendance should not be a ritual but a joyful gathering of family; a healthy family is hospitable and even magnetic – why not ours?
This gets to the heart of the matter. Many view Christians as that weird family who wear matching curtains for dresses and rugs for slacks. If we weave our faith in and out of God ordained conversations on a daily basis people might get the idea. We are pretty normal yet very different. We are thankfully unusual; we have a relationship with the maker of heaven and earth and this colors everything we do. As Christ’s ambassador you demonstrate His love by listening to His spirit move by rejecting fear and gently speaking His truth in everyday situations.
Going to church may be the last thing on a pre-Christian’s mind. Therefore our friendship is a link in the chain of evangelism that often precedes church attendance. We live in a secular culture with Christian roots. Most adults know what church is. This may change in a generation but currently people don’t attend church because they have a misconception of who followers of Christ are; they link religion to the tall steeple buildings on street corners and televangelists.
We can show people that Christianity is a relationship with God and not legalistic religion. What do atheists, agnostics, truth seekers and disgruntled or nominal Christians have in common? They misunderstand who God is. This is because “the greatest single cause of (functional) atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle”, accurately stated by Brennan Manning.
To effectively address this issue we should not attempt to recover good standing. Instead we must acknowledge our failures as the church and ask for forgiveness (see Isaiah 6:5). In doing so, we will demonstrate the errors in stereotypes which are used by enemies of Christ to slander us.
The two main reasons why people do not attend church are philosophical and practical. The philosophical objectors are few and in many cases the apologetic that appeals to their reason is still rejected. It would seem that only when they hit a personal “rock bottom” will they bend the knee and proclaim Jesus is Lord.
The pragmatic objector worships at the First Church of the Fluffy Pillow, Beaches Community Worship or the National Fellowship League. They have decided that their weekend is better spent without spiritual rest on the Sabbath. The Washington Post asserts that 82% of Americans say they believe in a god. Theism is alive and well despite efforts to disabuse the “masses” of their “opiate.” But, people lack a practical understanding of the one true God; they are blind to their own need for God. We must introduce them to God by living out the life of Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin and removes the scales from the eyes of the blind and raises the dead-men. Our job as Christians is to pray that God’s Spirit will move.
Mark Driscoll points out that “60% of church attendees are women. The hardest demographic to get into church is a single male in their 20’s.” His point is that church has become feminized. David Murrow points out in Why Men Hate Church that the pastels and couches in many churches reflect a waiting room rather than a spiritual operating room or war room. The church thermostat, to attract men, must be set on challenge. “Men need vision, not just relationships… in church,” stated Murrow. John Eldredge, in his best-selling books, states that men need a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to win and women need to be romanced to play an irreplaceable role in joining a heroic adventure. Our churches don’t talk about these things.
A church is not a building; people are the church. Many don’t grace our doors because they feel rejected before they even step foot in the foyer. This must change in us before they see it. Why don’t people go to church? Firstly, they don’t know God; that’s our responsibility. Secondly they don’t know who we really are; that is our fault. If you are asking this question then you probably know the answer. Engage and embrace those who may despise you. Pray that they will join us instead of suffering separation, even eternally, from God. But for His grace, so go I.
Do you go to church and think it’s important to be close to God? Tell us your opinion. Comment here or email the editor at [email protected]