Turn To The Person Next To You Affliction
The Apostle Paul said the things he didn’t want to do he did and the things he did want to do he didn’t. Pastors are like that when it comes to the habit of inviting people to ‘turn to the person next to them’. Believe me, I get the whole theory of interaction, but I also get that its best done genuinely, rather than when forced to by someone who possesses the power of the microphone. Once the edict is given you face either the prospect of engaging in a somewhat artificial engagement (which you have no hope of finishing due to time limitations) or looking like the odd one out, or a grump (that’s me..).
Whenever a pastor says that cringe worthy phrase it’s a dead giveaway that their assumption is that the entire congregation are Christians. Otherwise more sensitivity would be shown. If there are people there who aren’t Christians the invitation can be problematic. The next level of ‘turn to the person next to you’ is the one with an added “and pray for them…”
An evangelistic church expects there to be people present who have a range of faith positions from card carrying through to just looking. Subsequently there is a greater mindfulness of how such invitations affect these visitors. We need to view the experience of our worship services from the perspective of the visitor with no faith commitment (and a great degree of nervousness). Expecting newcomers to engage in a level of intimacy they rarely do with a complete stranger sitting next to them is insensitive.
- Secret Buildings
Have you found yourself at a church you’ve never been to before, not sure of where the entrance is, or where you go after finding the entrance? You’ve found yourself at a church for insiders. Insider churches don’t need clear signage because everyone knows the location of everything. Nothing needs to be explained. Signs are a waste of money if everybody knows where everything is.
On the contrary, churches that have invested in clear signage expect to have visitors, and wishes to help them access the building with clear direction.
Signage on the outside of church likewise can tell you something about how much the church values letting outsiders know where it is, what it is, and how to get into it.
You never have to wonder where McDonalds restaurants are; every franchisee will be able to tell you how much they paid for the gigantic sign outside. Marketers say that the Golden Arches are more recognised than the cross. That’s hard to verify but get the picture: McDonalds are in the business of selling burgers and fries and churches exist to hold out to the world the hope of the Gospel. Whilst the presence of a church is felt more significantly through its people signage is important. An evangelistic church makes it easy for people to notice it and access it. An evangelistic church does not assume that everybody attending it is a member, but rather that a fair percentage will be new to the place.
- Bubble world
If your church provides enough events to bring its membership back into the building or in other gatherings on virtually every night and day of the week it may well be a church that exists in the bubble.
A church that takes its missional imperative seriously is sensitive about the amount of time it demands of its members, knowing full well that by drawing people in to wall to wall events, meetings, etc there will precious little time left to be engaged in the community with people outside the walls of the church.
The machine of church is often the primary focus of the heat, light and energy that goes into the place, rather than a broken and lost world. This is quite understandable: life inside the bubble is a wonderful experience for many. People find support and sustenance inside the bubble. As one parishioner bemoaned of me: “Pastor I come here because it’s a place of refuge from the world and now you want to send me back out!”.
It’s all too easy for a church to add layer upon layer of activity that requires ever increasing commitment in terms of attendance. That feeling of business conveys a sense of purpose.
An evangelistic church looks carefully at its calendar and gives consideration to whether or not it is hindering the evangelistic potential of its people.
So how does your church stack up? Are you a ‘turn to the person next to you’ kind of church?
Drive into your church car park as if you have come for the first time and try and experience it afresh. It is clear where you go?
Out of seven days a week how many times are you called back inside the bubble?
Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager.