Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to double your congregation in one week

There is a way to do that.  Really.

All it would take is for every single person in a parish to invite 1 other person to church next week.

Why have we become embarrassed to do that?  It goes without saying that we go to church because we get something out of it, because it feeds us somehow, because it is a positive experience for us.

By comparison, why do we feel free to recommend our favourite restaurants, good movies, gentle dentists and fun vacation spots to friends, family and neighbours?  Why do we feel free to invite them to come see our band play, try out yoga at our favourite studio or join us at the gym, but we are so reluctant to share our church with other people?

Surely, when we have a positive experience, we want to share it, and that is only natural, but for some reason, we are bashful about our faith.

This could be because the act of sharing our faith is also known by another dirty word, and that is "evangelism".

Evangelism simply means to spread the Gospel, but evangelism seems to be an activity which has been co-opted by the "evangelical" movements.  Most of us regard their style of spreading the Gospel to be heavy-handed, judgmental and irritating.

But in essence, evangelism is essentially spreading an experience of God: God as love, God as justice, God as compassion and acceptance.  It has nothing to do with judgment, self-righteousness or moral superiority.

It has to do with sharing with someone else that God cares and that we care.  It has to do with sharing a community where we come to know one another, and through knowing one another, we come to know God.

In many of my pastoral visits and conversations with people, one trend seems to be prevalent, and that is a desire for community.  Despite being in the age of technologically-assisted mass communication, people are reporting feelings of depression, isolation and loneliness with alarming frequency.

I would be the first to admit that a church will not necessarily be for everyone, but I think there is a prevailing attitude in most faith-seekers interested in attending a church that they may not be welcome there, that a church is a closed community.

This is why I think it important to invite people.  A personal invitation can go a long way.

To listen to a podcast of my sermon for this week, click here.

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