My best friend and her husband went to Boston this weekend. I was extremely jealous and all I could think about as she and I texted was the trip I took in the fall. Usually, I have a pretty good sense of direction, but something about that city completely threw me for a loop. I had to use Google Maps on my phone to give me walking directions and even then I still ended up walking in circles trying to find the nearest T station. At one point I remember just busting out laughing because it seemed so ridiculous - I'm a fairly smart person who rarely gets lost driving places so why is walking around a city so incredibly difficult? I was in an unfamiliar place with an excellent guide, but something wasn't clicking in my brain.
Today was the fourth Sunday that I've gone to another church in my area. My roommate and a bunch of people I went to church with in high school go there. It is a church that markets itself as a place for people who don't go to church. You can become as connected as you want or stay as anonymous as you want. It's up to you. They use some gimmicks to lure people in like free Dunkin Donuts coffee and first time visitors get a free t-shirt and a sticker. Side note - the shirt is literally the softest shirt I've ever owned in my life. I told my roommate that I wanted all of my clothes to be as soft and comfy as that t-shirt. The gimmicks are great selling points. For Easter, they encouraged their regular attenders to invite people by giving out gift cards to food places that they could use to take whoever they wanted to invite and show love through a simple cup of coffee or a lunch. They're clearly doing something right to bring new people in. Besides holidays, they had a new high in attendance one of the earlier Sundays of the current series. I can't speak on the individual and personal growth of the people who go there as I won't be switching churches, but they have programs in place to help people grow as much as they want.
The pastor has been preaching a series on our stories as Christians. He's basing it out of John 9 in the Bible which is the story of the man who was blind, but could see after Jesus spit in the dirt, made mud, rubbed it on the man's eyes, and told him to wash it off in the pool of Siloam. The pastor spoke on spiritual blindness and encouraged us to ask God to reveal where we've been blind and God hit me with a ton of bricks on that one. While I love the church I go to, it is not remotely close to being unchurched friendly.
I've had the opportunity to sit and look at my church through a new set of eyes. When I became a Christian, I was in a church that was very focused on outreach and I felt comfortable inviting my unchurched friends to it. The thought of inviting my unchurched friends to the church I currently go to makes me incredibly uncomfortable. That feeling has trickled so deep into who I am as a Christian that I realized I barely even share the story of Jesus with those closest to me. I want to, but what if they want to know more and ask to come to my church? I don't want my church to scare them away with all of the Christian talk, the forced socialization, and the length of the service. My church is definitely a church for those who go to church or have a background in it. There are many things in place to help us grow personally in our walks. I am a testament to that. One of the ways God wants us to grow is by sharing our stories with those who don't know Jesus and frankly, I'm failing. I'm afraid if I invite my unchurched friends to my church, they'll be in an excellent place with a great guide in me and in the Bible, but something won't click because everything will be so unfamiliar.
It's created a dilemma in my heart. Do I jump ship on the church home I've had for almost 6 years to go to a new place where I would have the tools to grow in an area that I desperately need to grow in? Not to mention, the amount of young men there - yeah...my church can't touch that. Or do I stay and fight for my church to open its eyes to what I see? Unfortunately for my love life, I think it's best for me to stay and fight. I can't be the only one who feels like I'm starving in this area. I already know where part of the issue stems from, but I haven't figured out a tangible place to start. How do you help change the culture of the church you go to? My church has a heart to reach the community - we're in a building phase right now and leadership is trusting God to fill the spaces with people, but in order to do that, we have to become a place that's open and receptive and comfortable for people who have never gone to church to feel right at home. It starts with me and my actions. I don't know where it goes after that, but I know God wants his churches to be places where prostitutes and tax collectors can feel the love that Jesus showed to those same types of people back when he was alive. It's time to put aside my fears and insecurities because a man died on a cross to save my life and that's too good of a story not to share.