If you’d told me ten years ago to stop inviting people to church, I’d have quickly argued back at you. Today, as a 29-year-old, I see things a little differently.
Recently, I expressed it in a Facebook post:
I know you mean well. Your intentions are pure. But this common behaviour can be more damaging than you realise. And, hey, I’ll be the first to admit I used to do it too. Can we please not only be interested in token invitations to church or small group?
Are you actually interested in who I am as a person? Do you want to have coffee with me and get to know about my life?
There’s nothing wrong with these things, but there’s more to my life than whether I come to church on Sunday or your small groups during the week. Are you actually interested in who I am as a person? Do you want to have dinner or coffee with me and get to know about my life? I do – I want to get to know you.
Attending church is great, but it’s only one part of my life. Can we be better at creating a real, unforced Christian community? Maybe more people would want to come to church if they see how much we genuinely love each other …
The thoughts expressed in that Facebook post have been fermenting for the better part of the last 10 years, when I’ve found myself on the “other side of the fence” many more times than I expected.
After leaving the church I grew up in at age 20 to venture interstate, I searched high and low for a church that felt like home. The bar was set high because I loved my old church. It was my second home, and the people were like a second family to me.
I was the girl involved in everything … Church was life for me.
I was the girl involved in everything. If there was a church event, I was there. Prayer meeting – I was there or even leading it. I was a youth leader, I led a connect group and I’d attend multiple services many weekends. Church was life for me.
But when as the new girl, I visited new churches to find one that I’d plant myself in, I was discouraged. Too often, it seemed that Christians were more interested in whether I was signing up to their small group than in what was going on in the rest of my life. Leaders would text or call me to invite me to group and remind me to come to church, when all I really wanted was for them to ask me out for a coffee and get to know me.
…if those are the only invitations, it can feel a little shallow.
Their intention to help connect me in the church was noble – I can see that. It’s important to help people gel, and small groups are definitely part of that. But if those are the only invitations, it can feel a little shallow.
Now, I know this works both ways – I could initiate social catch-ups and dinners with people at church, and I do. But when you’re trying to find your feet in a new church, I think the onus should be on the leaders and regular attendees to reach out and make you feel welcome.
When you’re new, it can be scary to suggest social catch-ups – and yet we need them to build friendships. Worshipping alongside someone at church for 90 minutes and then leaving straight afterwards is not going to give you an understanding of that person’s whole world.
Christians have a tendency to be so focused on outreach that we forget the needs of our own brothers and sisters in the church.
I’d love to see us as Christians, particularly those who have been at a church for a long time, making a genuine effort to “do life” more with our brothers and sisters. We Christians have a tendency to be so focused on outreach that we forget the needs of our own brothers and sisters in the church. They need us, and need our love.
I think of the Scripture in Romans 12:9-13:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Let’s build Christian relationships that extend beyond the four walls of the church.
We all have different gifts, different capacities and commitments. So perhaps loving the Lord’s people will look different for you from how it does for me. Maybe for you it will be a movie night with a girlfriend, or organising a poker night with the boys. Whatever it is, let’s build Christian relationships that extend beyond the four walls of the church.
Let’s really care about each other’s lives. We all crave genuine community and friendships, so let’s build those relationships in organic ways.