How on earth do we get people in the church doors?
Just last Sunday, Hillsong’s senior pastor Brian Houston was preaching at a church in our area. As loyal as I am to our church and pastors, I just couldn’t miss this opportunity to hear him speak ‘in the flesh’, so I went along on my own to hear a world-renowned speaker so close to home.
I’ve actually dealt indirectly with Brian Houston when our company bought the Christian Business Directory off Hillsong Church. Back then it was a Sydney-only directory, and we then added directories in all of Australia’s cities, as well as acquiring the equivalent directories in New Zealand. From what I am told, Brian Houston himself had to sign off the sale, but our team liaised with Hillsong’s General Manager for the sale process.
The church I visited had an auditorium with two big, closed doors, that you had to enter to get inside. I was greeted by two very friendly people prior to this, but as I got towards the doors to enter the theater-style building, I was way too shy to walk through them. The service had started and so if I had walked through them, I felt I would be stared at by prying eyes. So I didn’t.
Just outside of the doors was an overflow area, with a screen showing the stage and speakers in place so the message could be heard. Perfect. The ushers naturally came over to me to advise that there was space on the inside, but I was happy to stay where I was.
To be fair, I am normally at church with my family, and so this was an opportunity to just be on my own. That in itself is a pretty rare occasion for me, so I enjoyed listening to the music and message without any children around me. It was also a bit of a relief to not have to “tell the person next to you you’re so glad to be sitting next to them today”.
However, as I sat there, I honestly started to realize just how intimidating going to church is. I do it every Sunday and I know everyone at my church so it’s easy. But if it was hard for me, a lifelong Christian, to walk through those doors as a stranger, how on earth does the average person ever pluck up the courage?
The truth is they don’t. The perception we as the church have given out, is that those auditorium doors are only to be entered by people who are perfect – or at least close to it. They are the upstanding in the community; the righteous who have their lives all together. So if you’re wanting to go to church but you have a problem in your marriage, an issue with the bottle or drugs, or anything else that resembles a ‘tainted life’, then the church is not for you. We even have our own language, which intimidates anyone that walks through the doors.
If you don’t call people ‘brother’, or sing out ‘hallelujah’; if you’re not ‘washed in the blood’, then this is no place for you. After last Sunday I clearly see how comfortable church online is for people, all the while realizing it is the connection and community that they are missing.
Of course the reality is that the people inside those doors are not perfect. They too are sinners; broken people who have found God and are a work in progress. But while we as Christians know that, the public don’t, and so they are too scared to bring their brokenness into that building for fear of being judged by the Christians inside.
If I couldn’t bring myself to walk through those doors, how could they? That must be a club in there for God’s elite. And based on this, it is why Christians are labeled as hypocrites outside of the church.
I don’t have all the answers in this blog, but I do know that we have to, some how, some way, make church palatable and inviting for those that feel less than perfect. There are no easy answers, but that is our goal. The reality is that Christians are just as broken and messed up as everyone else; we have just found the One who can help mend us back together and bring us hope.
Matt Danswan is the CEO of Initiate Media, publishers of My Christian Daily. He Also blogs at www.mattdanswan.com. His new book, Not Business As Usual, due for release in March 2018 and published by Ark House, can be pre-ordered now.
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