Or to any church, for that matter. The answer may surprise you. Because it keeps changing. And of course it’s different for different people. And it’s different for the same people at different seasons in their lives.
We’d like to believe that people come to our church because they trust they can find truth there. But even that feels different than it did a generation ago. A strong consensus today is that truth doesn’t look like it used to. What’s truth to you may not seem like truth to me. Can we even know “the truth,” anyway?
Some like to go to the big church on the corner because they have really good music there. But if you really want the best music you have the option to stay home and watch some highly trained professionals on television. The staff that produces the program there may be larger than your entire congregation, and if you surf a little you can find about any style of music you prefer from the harmonica to a full orchestra. And they’ve been practicing all week.
Those who study this stuff tell us that the reason most frequently given for why people attend a specific church is because of the preaching. Problem is, a faith group like ours consists mostly of small congregations, maybe a hundred or less, and when that’s true the pastor may be responsible for more than one. Meaning there is a “substitute” regularly. A local church leader or guest speaker fills in. And while the visiting speaker may occasionally speak well, it is quite often unpredictable. I’ve been in a worship service where I wished the speaker would never stop. I’ve also been in more than one service where I wish he/she had never started.
So why do people come to your church?
We are just beginning to understand the damage caused when our digital environment creates distances between people. With all of our interconnectedness, sociologists tell us we should worry about the great chasms of loneliness we are creating. We are designed to thrive on warmth and welcome, trust and touch. A healthy church provides that, and wise leaders invest their best energies to see that it happens where they serve.
No one should ever have to carry their burden alone. For instance, everyone should have a prayer partner so that – men with men and women with women – they have someone to pray for them daily and pray with them once a week. Also, part of discipleship is learning how to apply Scripture to life. That seems to work best in a small Bible class (a dozen or so) or in a small group some evening during the week. That’s a hard church to stay away from; and you can’t get it on TV.
By Don Jacobsen