“Church is fun, God is great. But church people? Lol.”
Our first reaction to this response is probably, “Yikes.”
But I mean. Do we really disagree with it?
Last week I asked the question, “What keeps you from going to church?” on my Instagram story and I let anyone respond. I clarified that regardless if someone was a believer or not, I was very interested in hearing their response, because every answer matters.
Here’s a few that people sent in:
“Going alone and walking in just for everyone to clique up and not feel welcomed”
“What keeps me there is Jesus… but in my own strength? I would leave because of serious hurt.”
“The people there…”
“Depression that’s overwhelming to other Christians”
“People only care about those inside the walls”
“Judgmental people inside of church”
“Walking in alone and feeling judged”
Ouch. I sit in a stare at just these few answers because they are so raw and honest. These answers are not made up and they are not answers that were sent as a jab towards any particular person or place. These answers are from real people who have encountered real experiences at real churches.
Inside the church world, the question is asked, “How do you successfully grow your ministry?” And honestly, I’ve been stuck on finding an answer to this for the past three years. Any organization that has a product in which they believe in has a goal to share it with the world and grow their company. Because they believe in what they’re doing and they are confident that their product is the best out there.
Just as any organization, many churches operate the same way. They believe in what they’re doing and who they’re doing it for, therefore they want to expand their reach and grow their attendance. Because they are confident that their God is the only God. It’s not meant to be a competition. Even though, unfortunately, some make it out to be.
So, how do you successfully grow your ministry?
New lighting system? Sweet. That will make the social media feed look sick. But cool lights don’t impact somebody’s heart and soul.
Free food at every event? Sweet. That will attract all the college kids because we’re all balling on a budget (lol, Lord help us.) But free food doesn’t impact somebody’s heart and soul.
First time guest gift bag? Sweet. That will be a neat thing that they won’t expect. But a cookie cutter free gift doesn’t impact somebody’s heart and soul.
More of a social media push on service weeks? Sweet. That will show we’re all excited for the next service. But a picture on a screen doesn’t impact somebody’s heart and soul.
All of these things are so great. All of these things so helpful. All of these things will absolutely attract somebody for the first time. Maybe a second time. And if we’re lucky, maybe even a third time. But let’s be honest with ourselves — none of these things are sustainable to keep somebody around.
What impacts somebody’s heart and soul for the first time? A genuine, “Hi. What’s your name?” And remembering their name.
What impacts somebody’s heart and soul for the first time? Sitting down with a set of clear eyes ready to listen to their story.
What impacts somebody’s heart and soul for the first time? Preparing a seat for them at your table before they can even ask.
What impacts somebody’s heart and soul for the first time? Getting their information and following up with them the next week.
What impacts somebody’s heart and soul for the first time? Simply caring about who they are as a person.
If we can get really real, we can be honest and admit that as Christians, we do a crappy job at representing Jesus sometimes. When I think of Jesus, I think of someone who is present in the moment. Who doesn’t have his eyes locked on his phone refreshing his Instagram feed while in a room full of people who are lost.
I think of someone who is kind. On his good day and his bad day. Because his character is what determines his response to people, not his current stressful situation. I think if Jesus were here today, He wouldn’t be scouting out the area where the preachers and “big named” people are hanging out.
Am I saying I think Jesus would down at the club busting a few moves and sharing a few drinks? Not exactly lol. But I do, I really do believe He wouldn’t dissipate every time a partier was near. I think He would sit back, and have a conversation. Because a conversation is always more productive than an assumption.
I don’t believe Jesus would drive down the crazy one way streets in Atlanta looking at all the homeless and labeling them as addicts because “It was their own decision”. I think He would pull over time to time, buy a sandwich, and go and sit with them. Not shoving the Bible in their face but just being there with a set of clear eyes.
I can’t picture Jesus pushing his way to the front trying to show off in front of his leaders. But I see him slipping out from the crowd and sitting at the table with the person who was all alone.
I don’t believe that when a new face showed up on a Sunday morning at church with the stench of alcohol that Jesus would be turning around raising his eye brow to make ‘that’ eye contact with his peers. You know, the look you give each other without having to say a word because you’re both thinking the same thing. No… not at all. I believe the BIGGEST grin would appear on His face, that you would see Heaven in His eyes as they locked with theirs, and He would walk up to them with a hug so thrilled that they were there.
Making them feel right at home, like you and I ought to do better.
Because celebrating and smiling in the middle of ache and judgement is exactly what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.
And in today’s culture, everyone is going to be looking at you saying “What are they doing?”
But they are seeing something in you that is more than you, and if you keep being the whacko who just keeps loving and celebrating everybody and anybody — eventually the people who were questioning will be so curious that they’ll want to join.
So… the question is asked, “How do you successfully grow your ministry?”
And I found that the answer is actually quite simple.
Care about people. Especially the one’s that no one else seems to. When people know you love them, and people know you care about them — you will never have to ask them to stay. When people know you love them, and people know you care about them — they’ll be the one’s who are telling their friends how different we are and how they have to come.
And here’s the funny thing. Loving and caring are most effective when words are not present.
Let’s smile a little more.
Let’s open our circle a little more.
Let’s be like Jesus, a little bit more.