I'm going to put a question to you, and you have to go with your gut response. The theory is that whatever you come up with says something about your faith. If everything’s fine in you, it should indicate something about how you perceive the spiritual condition of your church as a whole.
What's the question?
It's “why aren’t you bringing people to church?”
Stop and think about it. Don’t think about what the rest of this post is going to say.
What’s *your* answer?
I've found that the question doesn't actually require much thought. You should have an answer automatically.
I’m going to try and articulate a variety of responses and what they reveal about your faith at the moment. I haven't really included the extreme positive response where someone successfully keeps bringing heaps of people all of whom commit to being Christian as a result.
This post has 2 sections: answers that reveal where individuals are, and answers that reveal how people see the rest of the church.
The Faith of Individuals
Back off legalist. This is an accusation. You’re saying I’m a lower class Christian because I’m not bringing people to church. Not cool.
The anti-legalist response. Or positively, the uses-Christian-freedom-a-little-too-much response. If this is you, you need to repent of your loose morality. You might be caught up in some sin or another that plays on your conscience now and then, but actually that’s just a cover. The real problem is that you don’t want to give your heart fully over to God. Anti-legalists like you forget that bringing people into the kingdom of heaven is so great for *the other people*. It’s not a notch on your belt, it’s introducing people to their great God who loves them and wants to them to begin living eternal life now that honour God and delight in their creator and saviour.
I’ve asked every man and their dog and no one wants to come.
The opposite problem to the anti-legalist. You ARE a legalist. No one wants to come to your church because your life just isn’t that attractive. People are smarter than you think and they can tell that you aren’t asking for their sake, but for yours. Why would they want to join a group where they feel the burden of keeping little rules as much as you do.
You need to actually learn to delight in the community instead of just *doing the jobs that make you look good in the community*. You need to pray as if God is listening and really lay your heart out before him, instead of just saying words to yourself because you think you should. And most importantly, you need to delight in the people you are inviting to church. When going to church and living as a Christian is really transforming you, then people will want to find out what has been fuelling your fire.
All my friends are Christian. I don’t have anyone to ask.
Well, um, you need to, er, make some new friends…
Seriously though, can you stop being so insular?! Haven’t you noticed that Sally-Jane the newsagent is a bit glum all the time. Why don’t you be the one who lets her know that she’s special. No, not special to YOU, special to God. You’ve noticed Steven the skateboarder feels like he’ll amount to nothing. He’s not nothing to God. What about Mike and Jenny down the street who love their kids. You know that God loves their kids too, right? No, seriously. You know this from the bottom of your heart, don’t you. So what about them? And what about all the people who are so close to you?! Why have you given up on them? Look around, Dr Insular. They are everywhere when you open your eyes to see them.
I’m too busy to do that properly.
Really? What’s sooo much more important than the kingdom of heaven. Your job is too demanding? You have too many commitments? Quite simply you need to work out your priorities and make time for what is important. It might take a while to make all the changes, but we are talking about eternity and the Kingdom of heaven. It’s worth it.
I’m already doing so much. I just can’t think of this right now.
You sound burnt out. Being a Christian should give you energy and joy, and even though right now it’s not. Your main problem is that you are putting out more than you are getting in. You need to either decrease your output or increase your input. On the former, remember that even Jesus took a hike up the mountain to pray - have you done the same lately? On the latter, remember Jesus’ chilling comment in his letter to the church in Ephesus, who were suffering the same problems as you - they worked just as hard persevering through hard times and keeping sound doctrine. But…
Rev. 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Removing the lampstand is not good. It’s more or less removing the church’s status as a church or even as Christians!
Church culture problems
It could be that an individual is keeping people are ready and willing to invite people and even have people to invite but still don’t. Here’s some answers that have come up.
I don’t trust the other people at church to be welcoming to newcomers.
This answer suggests that there’s an epidemic of people who would give answer 3.
The other people at church make Christianity look bad.
There’s an epidemic of people who would give answers 1 & 2.
The music and age demographic of this church will be foreign to the people I know and witness to.
A bad workman blames their tools. If your church is truly spiritually vital, then music and demographics won’t matter that much. People get drawn into communities of life.
I remember visiting a church that was surprisingly large given the quality of the service, everything was lousy: the music (dodgy guitar), the service leading (very obviously unplanned and disorganised.), the building (non-existent, it was under a tree outdoors), preaching (wimpy). But there was clearly a lot of love between members and as a result it had a faithful core of regulars of all ages. I was made to feel very welcome. Think about this.
At the same time, doing things well does count for something. And tighter coordination is more important when organising and directing larger numbers of people. There is also something deeply satisfying and God-honouring about seeking quality and maintaining high standards. We are created in God’s image, right? When God finished things, he saw that they were good. Do that too.
What I’m saying is that when you are trying to build the church the most important thing is that each member has a strong sense of spiritual vitality; that they have a strong sense of the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven; that their lives are being noticeably reformed and are attractive to outsiders; that they are open-hearted and warm towards all newcomers.
Everything else comes second to this.