Summer is almost over, and I have had the incredibly blessing of participating in three different Bible school outreaches. I have talked to a lot of people in and out of the church, and here are some things I have learned from listening to others' stories.
1) Religion turns people off to the Gospel. Many people who are unchurched think the Gospel is not a big deal, because they can't past all of the rules tacked onto their heads the minute they walk through church doors. They know their tattoos will be frowned on. They know they are a single mom with kids. They know they are divorced. They know their lives are messy. It makes me sad. The Church is supposed to be the body of Christ- not a self-righteous possy that beats up broken and lost people.
2) Churches that are active and making a difference in their communities are attractive to unchurched people. Most of us in the South have been part of dysfunctional churches where pew warmers are the norm. Many of us have scars from nasty church fights within, and some of us leave to escape the pain. When the unchurched see a church that is actually doing something, they get to see a glimpse of the Gospel. They wonder... maybe this place is different? Maybe there is something here that matters?
3) The environment your church creates every time you meet is HUGE. I've visited quite a few churches during this transition period, and let me tell you, how the church feels when you walk through the doors matters a lot! It doesn't take a visitor long to figure out whether or not they are welcome, whether or not they are being looked up and down for wearing the wrong or the right thing, or whether or not the people in this room actually care about each other. The churches that are growing are the churches where people feel loved and safe.
I don't know about you, but I want to be part of a church that matters. I want to be part of a church that takes Jesus into the darkest places in our community and to the ends of the earth. I want to be part of a church that embraces sinners and leads them to Jesus for healing and new life. I hate religion. I want to experience the freedom that Christ has purchased for us. I want to see unchurched people try out church again and realize that God is not dead. Jesus is alive and powerfully working through His body to redeem and make a treasured people for His name's sake. Brother and sisters, let's repent if necessary and commit together to do church well.