I honestly didn’t know Monday’s post would strike such a chord with people (1000 Facebook shares and 6000 page views in two days). It was a written form of something I preached last Sunday. Apparently it resonated. According to my wife, it gave voice to something people have been feeling for years.
So now that I’ve opened up this pandora’s box of emotion, let me see if I can help chart a way forward. Here was the Next Step for Sunday’s sermon, the way we could put the truths we learned into action. Hopefully it can help you as well. It’s a simple (but not easy) way to reach people for your church: pursue people more than your preferences. Preferences are just that: preferences. Style of music, architecture, programs: all preferences. People, on the other hand, are eternal. Now, number 9 on the list (status quo) will hinder many churches from doing what’s necessary to change and reach people, but let me give you a glimpse of what it looks like when we pursue people more than preferences:
- I shared yesterday about a young lady who came to Mt Vernon a few weeks ago. She grew up in the church, loved the church, and the church loved her, until she got a divorce. To her church, that was the unforgivable sin. She still wanted to be a part of her church, but they made her feel so unwelcome and judged that she left. And in her words, she stayed away from church for ‘far too long’ because she was so hurt, and only recently has she worked up the courage to venture back out into the church world. The reason she came to Mt Vernon? Someone pursued her. A friend, who knew her past, knew her present, and invited her anyways.
- A wife who had stayed out of church for more than a decade following the death of her husband. In her words, she searched and searched but could never find a church home. She’s found a home now at Mt Vernon. How? Someone pursued her, her sister-in-law.
- A young lady I met last week grew up as an Air Force brat. She moved around a lot and her family eventually settled out West. They couldn’t find a church they felt at home in so they just stopped going. Eventually she stopped believing in Jesus altogether because it seemed too unrealistic. Years go by, this young lady joins the Air Force like her father before her. She’s stationed here in Columbus, and someone pursued her. A friend from work who’d been going here for awhile invited her to come with her. This young lady came last Sunday, and when I met her she said this was the second time she had been in church in 11 years. All because someone pursued her and invited her.
That’s one part of the equation. We’ve got to be willing to pursue people more than our preferences. But as important as it is for church members to do that, churches as a whole have to do that as well. Too many of you have invited someone to church only for them to have a bad experience. So how can churches pursue people more than their preferences? If there was an easy or simple solution to that, I would sell it as a book and retire as a millionaire. There is no easy solution. But there is a solution. The best I can do is try and show you what it looks like.
In tomorrow’s blog I’ll share the steps we’ve taken at our church to try and create a culture of people that pursues people more than our preferences.