JUNE 8, 2018

Just Ask!

Dear Church,

I’m currently teaching a new class that I’ve never taught before at Trinity Christian College.  The class is called “Biblical Perspectives” and in five weeks it attempts to be both an Old Testament and New Testament survey course.  For one assignment students are required to do a “Church Visit Paper.”  Basically, they need to write a four-page paper comparing their home church with another church of a different denomination or background.  What the syllabus fails to realize is that out of twelve students, only one has a “Home Church” they admit they regularly attend.  So, I had to call a grace-filled audible and have them visit at least one church and compare that experience with an experience from their childhood growing up in church.  The paper was extremely insightful.  The students commented on everything ranging from the actual architecture of the building, to the clothes the pastors wore, to how the Sacraments were administered to the way the congregation greeted one another.  I felt like I had my very own focus group of people who could lend a pastor insight as to how best get them into (or back to) church.

However, one specific paper stood out to me.  It was written by a female student who grew up and was very active in a Christian Church.  She attended Sunday School, Youth Group, went on Mission Trips and was positively shaped by the physical space and place of her home church.  However, as she grew, she began to question and even doubted her faith.  She went off to college and didn’t attend church.  After a few years of attending a college she didn’t graduate from, she found herself in the work place, but never made it back to church.  She admitted the need for church in her life, but then wrote something that made me stop reading.  She wrote, “I don’t go to church, but I would go if someone asked me to go with them.” 

A recent study was conducted by Wheaton College in conjunction with Lifeway Research.  They discovered that contrary to some perceptions, the great majority of unchurched people have some sort of church background.  In fact, almost two-thirds (62%) went to church regularly as a child.  They also found that most of the unchurched quit attending church because they got out of the habit.  Some did leave churches for negative reasons, but that is not true of the majority.  Here’s something interesting though: one-third of unchurched people have plans to go to church soon, and in fact, unchurched people, are very open to a Gospel conversation.  Nearly half (47%) would interact freely in such a conversation.  Another third (31%) would listen actively without participating.  Only 11% would change the subject as soon as possible.  But here’s to me the most interesting finding: among the unchurched, 55% said they would attend church if invited by a family member and 51% said they would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor. 

Think about that for a second.  51% of those surveyed said they would attend church if invited by a friend or neighbor.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think when it comes to the unchurched and the obvious decline of mainline Protestant churches, we can so easily lament the problem and feel as if the ship is sinking and we have a small bucket to bail water.  But if we sincerely desire the church to grow, then why wouldn’t we start asking more people to join us?  The odds are in our favor!  Think with me, when was the last time you invited unchurched friends or neighbors to church?  Have you ever?  When you’re done reading this, go ahead and muster up the courage to send the text, compose the email or make the call and invite that unchurched friend or neighbor to come with you.  If statistics, research, and my class at Trinity are any indication, our odds just might be better than we think.

Grace & Peace,

Pastor Matt