I had a dream. I was at a “generic” type church meeting. We were asked to get into small groups to discuss how we could encourage more people to come to our meetings, how to get people to engage with us, and what sort of things would build church numbers. The media is full of statistics about how church attendance is declining. What can the church do to combat these figures?
The discussion seemed to go round and round in circles. I cannot remember the sort of things that were suggested, but I was aware in a way that is only possible in dreams, that the ideas not only were going to be ineffective, they may in fact be harmful to individuals and to the body of the church as a whole.
As I woke up, I was struck with a realisation that the problem was that “how do we boost numbers and get people to come to our church” was the wrong question entirely. The question we should have been asking was “how can we effectively and consistently host the presence of God in our midst?” If we can be successful in that, I believe that one of two things would happen. Either the first question would be answered, or, it wouldn’t matter.
I recently bought a book by Francis Chan called “Letters to the church.” In it, Chan asks the reader “Imagine you find yourself stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a copy of the Bible. You have no experience with Christianity whatsoever, and all you know about the Church will come from your reading of the Bible. How would you imagine a church to function? Seriously. Close your eyes for two minutes and try to picture “Church” as you would know it.
Now think about your current church experience. Is it even close?
Can you live with that?”
Try it. I did, and it scared me. There are so many parts of church life that I love. I find comfort in knowing how things will generally happen on a week by week basis. I like to know that I am safe. I suppose if I’m honest, I’ve put God in a bit of a box. I feel happy with the fact that the box I’ve put Him in is a bit bigger than some others I know, giving Him a bit more room to move, but it’s a box none the less. Am I willing to break down the walls of the box completely? My usual response to this is “yes, but only if others will too – I don’t want to do this on my own.”
I think that this answer is both wrong and correct at the same time. You see, I can’t allow others journey with God to dictate mine. The relationship is personal, and just between God and me. Yet, I don’t believe that God intends us to walk alone. He designed us to walk together towards a common goal, each with our individual parts to play, but in community.
Jesus tells us that we should “seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” We really don’t have to worry about how to get people to come to our services. I believe that the only thing we should be focusing on, both individually and corporately is how we seek first His Kingdom. I don’t think that worrying about programme is the answer. Are we ready to tear down the sides of the box and pursue Him, only Him? Are we willing to wait, patiently asking Him what He wants to do, and then partner with Him to do it, even if it means we don’t make it home by 12:30 on a Sunday? Are we prepared to say that to rest and enjoy His presence is more important than ensuring we tick all the boxes in the “church service” template?
Can we honestly say, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand spent elsewhere”? When we say, “I rejoiced when they said, let us go to the house of the Lord”, do we mean it, or is church just something we do on a Sunday morning?
It’s time for change.
The time is now.
I’m ready to seek First His Kingdom.