Monday, April 6, 2015

The Getting People to Attend Church Business

I read an article today about the top factors that attract and keep people in churches. The answers were the usual suspects - Friendliness, Children's Programs, Worship Experience/Music, and Preaching. The article noted that only 4 in 10 Americans attend church regularly.

I'm pretty sure the intended message was, "churches are not doing a very good job of giving people what they want - only 4 in 10 Americans attend church regularly."

Issues like those mentioned are worth thinking about, but not for the reasons listed. Christians should be friendly to strangers and love people unconditionally. Christians should care about providing quality children's programing. Christians should worship enthusiastically. Christian preachers should communicate the Bible clearly and passionately.

But we are not in the "getting people to attend church" business.  If we fill the church to overflowing by providing everything an American consumer could possibly want but those do not encounter Christ and become converted we are not accomplishing anything significant.  If we get 100% of our community and the surrounding communities to attend our church - but they do not hear the truth of God's word confronting the sin in their lives, we are failing.

If we were in the "getting people to attend church business" we could succeed by holding church in the big top tent with a three ring circus, scantily clad performers and daring high wire acts. It would be grand! The band, the clowns, the lions and elephants would bring people in, for sure. But so what?

Jesus did draw big crowds at times. But you will notice that many times the big crowds were disappointed. In John 6 he fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. The next day they came to him again, but he refused to feed them again and told them that he was the food they really needed - that they would have to eat his flesh and drink his blood. The thousands who had been singing his praises the previous day and wanted to make him king now deserted him and he was down to his twelve disciples again.

We are supposed to be in the discipleship business. We want people to have their hearts changed by God through an encounter with Jesus. That might happen in a mass meeting or it might happen in a one on one encounter. Both are recorded in Scripture. But when people encounter Jesus, a significant number of them will not be converted and will actually be offended. They will go away faster than they came.

There is nothing wrong with drawing a crowd unless that is your main goal.  But the real issue is making disciples and instructing them in the Scriptures.  If you can do that with a dozen people over the course of your lifetime you are in good company.

(John 6:37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

(John 6:44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.