Stepping back into the position of pastor in a church makes one ask certain questions about certain things. Questions you might not otherwise ask yourself as an assisting pastor in a church. Questions about the color selection of the plastic table cloths. Questions about the banners on the walls. Questions about the plastic flower bouquets around the room. Questions like, “If I change any of these things, who is going to leave the church?”
In an earlier blog entry I talked about churches that try to draw in certain segments of our society. They do things, have programs, that are designed to attract and keep people in the church. That is backwards to the model Jesus showed us. He told us to go out into all the world and make disciples, not draw them in. Unfortunately what many churches do today isn’t even designed to attract the unchurched. Rather, its designed to attract the churched. The programs offered, the lingo used in literature and websites, the whole vibe and feels is often geared toward drawing in the already saved. That’s even much more weirder.
Having said all of that, there is a certain amount of stuff you need to do in order to make a space comfortable for people. Some tastes, some styles appeal to some people and not to others. I love my granny, but her choice of colors and stuff she hangs on the walls isn’t my thing. But its her house and I respect that. Her friends probably like what she has. People my age don’t.
Our fellowship meets in the school districts meeting hall. Its a converted cafegymatorium. It’s a nice room. A blue/grey carpet, big open windows, a nice drop ceiling, dark wood trim around the old stage, dark blue seats. On our refreshment tables we have plastic tablecloths with a blue and pink flowery pattern on them. Can table cloths make it or break it in someone’s decision making on staying at a church? You betcha. While the color of them won’t make people stay at a church, it can certainly cause people not to come back. Is that petty? Yes, but its also reality. Can changing the tablecloths make people leave a church? You betcha. Unfortunately, some of the most seemingly unimportant things in a church can be deal breakers for some.
How do we fix this? Helping every have the same vision. The Sunday service ought not to be the main event in a church. While it may be the one time everyone gets together on a regular basis, it isn’t the point of why we exist as a fellowship. The point of our existence as a fellowship is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. We get together, inside and outside of the Sunday service to encourage one another, heal one another, and live life together.
What ought the vision for the Sunday service be? I like to think of it as the living room in the house where family members and guests can hang out. When most people, saved or not, want to check out a church they don’t call to find out when the home fellowship meetings are, when the hospital and jail visitations are. They want to know when church is on Sunday. That’s when they are going to come check you out. A living room ought to be an environment where you, as a guest, get an idea of what the family is like. it ought to be warm and welcoming for all, yet neutral enough to where it won’t drive people off. It ought to reflect a certain amount of your whole family’s personality, but not only grandma’s, not only your kid’s, and not only yours.
I don’t know about you, but when we have company we like to have music playing in the background. What kind of music do we play? Do we play the VeggieTales stuff our kids like? Do we play some of the more eclectic stuff I or my wife might like (classical, early jazz, bluegrass, fusion)? Do we play the Hawaiian stuff grandma likes? No. We try to play stuff that our guests will enjoy, or at least not find distracting. There ought to be a certain amount of that thinking when it comes to worship. So, Mr. Corby, what style is most appropriate for our guests? Beats me. I don’t know where you live. This is where the culture stuff comes into play. If you are in a college town and are trying to reach out to college kids, while maintaining the level of care for the rest of the church, your are going to play much more modern stuff than you are hymns with hymnals. If you do play hymns, they are probably going to sound like Jars of Clay. Your tablecloths are going to be more modern in appearance. Pinks and blues and yellows might be replaced with browns, oranges, and greens. Maybe even (gasp!), black.
There is something to be said for being sensitive to the seeker. Church ought to be a nice, appealing environment to the church newbie. A place where the message of God’s grace, mercy, love, and truth can come through loud and clear. A place where people can be convicted by the Holy Spirit, not by the people or the decor. Who should we try to attract? People. All of them.