I love Sundays. Sundays are the day that I get together with other Christians and celebrate the good things of God. I get to submit myself to good teaching, sing songs of praise, and talk and catch up with friends. It’s good. But it wasn’t always good. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I started really appreciating Sunday church. Five years ago I met a group of believers that loved and engaged me outside of the “Sunday morning experience.” They dedicated time to my growth, which allowed me to experience genuine Gospel centered community. It wasn’t until then that I saw the benefit and joy of a Sunday morning gathering.
For the 20 years prior to that, I dreaded Sundays. When I went to church, I left feeling guilty and ashamed. I left knowing I needed Jesus, but too ashamed to approach Him, for fear of rejection or worse, chastisement. Other times, I opted not to go, but that brought its own guilt. I felt guilty for avoiding the place that made me feel guilty. So I played the game of feeling guilty when I went and feeling guilty when I didn’t. It was taxing to say the least. Eventually I committed to not going anymore, it just seemed easier than trying to get into a “club” that no one would tell me the password for. The only reason I went back is because my children were becoming old enough to understand and I wanted them to grow up with a set of decent values. But I was still only committed to just being an “attender”, nothing more.
When I first started attending church, it was because my dad’s boss invited us. Yes, it’s true that most people who are invited attend, but that doesn’t mean they stay. I didn’t and so many people I know didn’t. Everything I’ve learned church shows this drastic disparity between the early church, in which “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” and today’s church, in which we have an abundance of statistics that show the mass exodus of people and pastors from the church. It doesn’t add up in my brain. Over the past few years I’ve had countless discussions about what may have happened and I think one of the issues centers around one simple thing; our front door.
As the early church evolved the “front door” to Christianity quickly became and has traditionally been the Sunday morning corporate gathering. The whole launching point for someone’s Christian faith has become the church building where people gather on Sunday mornings. From there we encourage our people to invite their family and friends back to our building. If they accept the invitation, they’re treated to an amazing musical performance, delivered an engaging sermon and asked if they want to accept Jesus. People are invited into our buildings, converted by acknowledging of our teachings, and sent back to their home with hopes that they’ll keep coming and bring others. Some do, but so many others don’t. If you look at any study done over the last two decades it appears that practice seems to be less and less effective in helping people to experience the abundant life that Jesus promised.
It’s odd to me that in a culture that seems to be seeking an authentic way to connect with others and understand where God fits, so many people walk away from or outright ignore the very entity that exists to do both of those things. Perhaps it’s time to consider that changing the way we’ve traditionally gone about inviting people to follow Jesus hasn’t been for the better. I’m not opposed to Sunday morning service. On the contrary, communal/corporate gathering and worship is essential to growing in Christ. It’s an important part of following Jesus and glorifying God. But, I think it’s better suited as a gathering intended for believers. That doesn’t mean that unbelievers won’t be there. On the contrary, they will and should, but the gathering should be for celebrating God and to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.
So, if then the “Sunday morning” gathering is for Christians, then where does that leave our “front door” for inviting unbelievers? On our homes. The front door to following Jesus started out as the door to the Christians’ homes and it wasn’t because they didn’t have anywhere else to worship. Acts 2:46 & 47 tell us that they gathered in the Temple courts to worship together. Then they would go home and eat and praise God together. And still, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The 1st century Christians were hospitable people. It was a natural part of being a Christian, and was modeled by Jesus, to invite the “unclean” into a meal with you. There’s no doubt that those that were hungry, needy or rejected by the temple priests were invited into the Christians homes to eat with them. And if that be the case, it’s no doubt that they heard about Jesus, in those same homes. It would be after they heard the Good News that they would be added to the number as one of those saved. It was then that they would accompany the other believers to the Temple in order to celebrate together.
Nowadays, it doesn’t happen that way. If we even feel comfortable enough to invite our neighbor, it isn’t into our home, it’s to a building, typically located nowhere near our neighborhood. Today’s Christians don’t need a defense for the hope they have, because they just need to hand their neighbor an invite card and let the Pastor tell them about Jesus. We live in an “off the hook” Christian culture, in that, as long as we invite someone to Sunday morning we’re off the hook for anything else. I’m not downing on the corporate gathering, I love it. But maybe we should consider opening the front door to our homes and inviting people into relationship with us. When we do, we get to expose them to Jesus without show and pretense. We get to be authentic and transparent. We get to show them that we’re as messy and vulnerable as they are. It creates a more level ground than the church building does. It’s more difficult to call a Christian a hypocrite when you see behind the curtain, into their home. Then, once we’ve engaged them in an honest and transparent way and they’ve still seen Jesus in our life, the Holy Spirit can better deal with their unbelief and the seeds we plant will fall on good soil more often. It becomes about following Jesus all week, rather than just on Sunday.
The model for community in today’s Christian church looks like this:
1. Invite unbeliever to church, via an invite card.
2. Unbeliever hears pastor preach about some social issue, ties it into the Bible and hopefully Jesus.
3. Unbeliever feels guilty and some sort of wanting.
4. They attend a couple more time, finally accepting the offer to say the sinner’s prayer.
5. They’re applauded and invited to contact the church if they want more information about the decision they made.
6. They keep attending and are eventually encouraged to serve on Sunday morning and join a small home group, so that they can have community.
7. They become involved in the business of church, but rarely experience genuine community. This creates shallow roots that can be easily torn up when life become difficult.
What if the model looked a little different? What if instead of inviting them to church, we invited them into our life. When if we opened our front door and built relationship with our neighbors? Then when they ask about the hope we have, we’re able to give an answer. What if we put the time into cultivating rich soil, so that the seeds we plant take deep root? What if we lived life with them; grieving and celebrating with them, praying for and with them, loving on them and letting them learn to love us? What if it was after building a deep friendship, that they joyfully chose to join us to celebrate His goodness? What would it look like if our approach was intimate then corporate gathering rather than cooperate gathering with hopes of intimacy?
The front door to meeting Jesus shouldn’t be a building where people get lost in the mix, but a place where the lost become known. TWEET THIS!
What are some ways to make our homes the front door to introducing others to Jesus?
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