It’s Pack the Pews Sunday at the Church Around the Corner. For weeks the pastor has been making announcements about it. Everyone either has brought a friend along or is feeling the discomfort of failing at asking or remembering to ask a friend to come to church today. The number of visitors will swell the attendance figures. Some of the visitors will come back! Some won’t. But, hey, at least they made the effort, right?
It’s Bring-a-Friend Sunday at Church Down the Road. They’ve been doing this kind of thing for years. They know the statistics. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Church in the Country called a new pastor and asked her to attract new members in the neighborhoods being built on what used to be farmland.
Church in the City reached out to the surrounding neighborhoods, even though the population had changed, because this was the “only” solution they could see to the problem of a big building and a membership moving to the suburbs.
All these churches are concerned with staying open, and they all know the answer to the “problem” is more bodies, more members, more financial supporters. They undertake marketing campaigns, run advertisements.
We’ve done some things at Small Church to raise our profile in the community. We bought a new sign, improved our landscaping out front, made space in our church for an afterschool arts program and made room for New Church Start.
Did we do these things for our own survival? Or were we hoping for something more?
It seems to me there are two reasons for evangelizing. One is a belief that you have knowledge that is absolutely necessary and soul-saving for the next life. The other is a joy in something that is absolutely necessary and soul-saving for this life. You can’t keep yourself from sharing it.
I wish I could inspire the second of those two, help connect the good people at Small Church to love and joy so deep and high and wide that sharing it would seem as necessary as breathing.
But evangelism is a dirty word in many churches. It’s something “they” do and “we” don’t. It’s risky. You might be rejected. You might be asked a question you can’t answer. And do you know what it is you want to share? Does what we share together seem like enough?
I want to see us share the good things going on in our small community of faith because we feel compelled to share, not because we are afraid to die.
What makes us want to get someone into the house so desperately that we will take the roof off to do it?
It is our belief that God is present, and that in God’s presence, wonderful things may occur. In God’s presence, healing may be found. In God’s presence the hierarchy of society, the primacy of knowledge and the weight of tradition are nothing. The desire to get to God’s presence, whatever needs to happen to get us there, is what really matters.
So why do we hesitate to tell our friends about what we experience at church? Why do we settle for the lukewarm, or keep ourselves at a remove?
Who are we trying to protect when we refuse to say the “E” word?