“When you were born, your mother brought you here.
When you were married, your partner brought you here.
When you die, your friends will bring you here.
Why not try coming here on your own sometimes?”
This poster seen outside a church raises an interesting question. Why do folk seem to need so much persuading to go to church? Nationally less than 10% of the population attend a church service on a Sunday. Only a few per cent of the people of Chelmsford are committed Christians. Why is this?
Many non-attenders blame the church itself. The church is “outdated”, they say, “living in the past”. It’s “too solemn”, “too regimented”, “boring”, “pre-occupied with money and buildings”. The church is “all-pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die”, folk complain.
Perhaps these criticisms used to be justified, but no so much nowadays. Churches today are very concerned to be relevant. Our mission calls us to be useful in the community, and in touch with world issues, without neglecting the central spiritual purpose of the church which is to worship God, to offer God’s answers to today’s questions, and to share His saving love with everybody.
Staying away from church may actually be much more to do with the image which the church has in the world than with the reality of church life. The comical, but distorted, portrayal of vicars in comedies and soap operas may scare off many folk from ever meeting a real clergyman. The representations of churches in Eastenders, Ballykissangel and The Vicar of Dibley do the true church of Jesus Christ no favours at all.
Very many folk only ever go to church to special services. At weddings everyone is so happy and at funerals they are so sad that they usually miss most of what is happening. Few people there are used to going to church, so everybody is feeling awkward and out of place. Weddings and funerals may well put people off ever going back to church, because they haven’t actually seen church as it really is.
So what can WE do to help others to come to church? Firstly we should INVITE people! Friends, neighbours, and even strangers, should be given a personal invitation not only to our services but to our regular activities and our special events.
Our publicity with leaflets and banners and adverts on Facebook is bearing fruit. Last week we had no less than ten first time visitors to our morning service! And another guest at our evening service. When new folk do come along to church services or events we should WELCOME them! Not smother them, or scare them off, but definitely not ignore them. We should befriend them, and make allowances for the fact that they might feel as out of place amongst us as we would in their local pub. We should make sure that we tell them about the great things going on at North Springfield Baptist Church, and give them one of our welcome leaflets so they can keep in touch if they want to.
INVITE and WELCOME – two simple things we can all do to make it easier for folk to come to church.