Why don’t people come to church? That’s a question that’s much on the minds of the folks in our congregation who do come to church every Sunday they possibly can. We wonder why some people are content to come every once in a while. We wonder why some never come at all, and don’t want to come.
My eyes opened wide when I came across this article from the December online edition of The Lutheran. The author, David Hansen, who is pastor of the St. John Lutheran Church Prairie Hill in Brenham, Texas, recently spent a week using the tools of social media to ask people why they stay away from church. He says that programs and worship style are at the bottom of the list of why people don’t come to church. Number one on the list is that they have been hurt by people in the church or know others who have been hurt. Here’s part of what he heard:
“Outside of our doors, there is a multitude of people who have been hurt by people in the church. They have been judged for not looking the way we wanted them to look. They have been judged for making mistakes and for choosing to live lives that look different from ours. They have heard the people who worship on Sunday say hateful things on Monday. They have witnessed the followers of the Prince of Peace spreading malicious gossip against their ‘brothers and sisters.'”
Well, there are many reasons why people avoid church. But being turned off by what they have seen of Christians personally and in the media is certainly one big reason why many people don’t want to have anything to do with church.
Hansen then goes on to point out that the behavior of some church members is also the number one reason why some people return to church: “The No. 1 reason people begin worshiping with a new congregation is because they have been made to feel welcomed and loved by someone in that church.”
To welcome and love people, we have to get involved with their lives and let them get involved with our lives. It’s about building loving relationships.
Hansen then says this to people who have been hurt and turned off by church: “If you have been hurt by the church, if you have been made to feel unwelcome, if you have been judged, I am sorry. If by my words or by my life I’ve made you feel like you are unloved, or that you can’t trust Christians, I am sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry.”
I’m sorry, too.
Read the whole post. It’s really challenging. Have mercy on your church, Lord Jesus.