Comments have been surprising
After posting five church visit writeups, I thought a blog post for reflection was appropriate. Overall, there has been a positive reaction to this blog. A number of readers have shared that the blog helps them in their search for a church, and what they might expect when they attend a new one. [img_assist|nid=124700|title=Aurora Play by Chris Thompson|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=233]I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the overall balanced tone of many of the comments to my posts and the comments of others. It seems as though there are genuine Christian attitudes out there. Unfortuantely a few commenters have used the blog as an attack vehicle. However, I think it underscores some of the dysfunctionality I experience in the churches I visit. It’s there and it’s real, but on a relatively small scale.
Back to the books
Your comments have driven me to study and research more than anticipated. This will have a positive impact on the quality of my visits and their writeups. Recently I discovered the observations of Calvin Ratz, a well-known writer and minister. [img_assist|nid=124707|title=Growing Your Church Through Evangelism and Outreach|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=350]In the book Growing Your Church Through Evangelism and Outreach (Wipf & Stock Publishers March 1999) his chapter on Ministry to Newcomers is a classic, observing:
Newcomers don’t come with the glue already applied. It’s up to the congregation to make them stick.
But that’s easier said than done. Experience shows that not everyone who attends church once wants to return.
Visitors arrive at a church’s doorstep for a variety of reasons. There are disgruntled church hoppers, unsaved people genuinely seeking either spiritual or material help, newcomers to town, recent converts, and spiritual prodigals returning to God. Each comes with a different set of fears and expectations. All must be handled carefully if they are going to come back a second time.
At times, church insiders fail to realize how intimidated newcomers feel when attending church. Insiders, familiar with the traditions, the rubrics of worship, the machinery of church programs, and even the layout of their facility, tend to forget that outsiders see these smoothly flowing activities as intimidating barriers to becoming part of an unfamiliar church.
Let’s stay positive
We’ll continue to examine what works and what doesn’t. I do try to be fair and balanced with my remarks. And…remember, my criteria for the visits are:
• Is the church friendly and warm? Did I truly feel welcomed?
• Was the main teaching relevant to my personal walk and was it delivered effectively?
• Did the music merely entertain or did it deepen the worship experience?
It is not the intent of my visit to evaluate finer points of theology. Just like any well-meaning reviewer, my whole intent is to give each reader a good mental picture of what they might expect in the churches I visit.