I continue to hear and read about the decline in church attendance. Even among the demographic of committed members, they are showing up less. It’s troublesome to say the least. Especially when church has a lot to offer.
Considering the state of affairs I wondered, What would make a person or a family seek out a church? After-all, do we really have any idea what would drive a person to the doors of a church? Seekers are few and far between, at least in the traditional sense of what we typically think of as a seeker.
I don’t see a search for truth as a driving force in most people’s lives, and in a culture where we are told how good we are, there doesn’t appear to be people flocking to church to find reconciliation with God. Some of the classic reasons for why people come no longer apply. So what would make someone seek out a church?
What would motivate them to venture into a new environment and for many, a new experience? Here are the three reasons I’ve witnessed over the years.
1. They are looking for help
From benevolence to getting practical wisdom on life issues, people are looking for help. The challenges that face the average person is exponentially greater than its been in generations past. Not that life has ever been easy, but the stresses of today are felt in more acute ways than ever before.
Couple that with the ever downward spiralling of our financial, education, and medical systems and the need for help becomes more pronounced. Many are struggling today to make ends meet and to navigate life with all its challenges.
The church has for centuries been a haven for the disenfranchised, the marginalized, and the poor. Its been one of the church’s most endearing legacies, but the needs have grown beyond just the poor. We now are dealing with mental health issues, relational issues, identity issues, and a host of others in ways we’ve not seen before.
2. They are looking for a home
We hear the terminology of community bandied about when it comes to church. Frankly, as good as that word is it comes short of the terminology of the Greek, koinonia. The picture depicted by a home is more appropriate. Its a place where you can connect and where you are not only known, but loved as well.
Care and camaraderie feels natural and you sense that you belong. This is not easy for non-churched people. Often, our attempts at assimilating them feels more like an invasion of the Borgs in Star Trek. Hospitality plays an important role. In Greek the word hospitality means love of strangers.
Though we know that one way of showing hospitality is to invite people for a meal, the term actually implies that we extend hospitality long before the dinner table, but at the door of the church first and foremost.
Believers do this naturally. If you’ve ever had to look for a new church you know what I mean. The music feels right, the message hit the right notes, the people were warm and friendly and it just felt like…home.
3. They are looking for hope
If there is one market that the church has a corner on, its hope! As a pastor, I can’t help but look around and shake my head over the craziness happening in our world. Not to be too dark or too negative, but does anyone have a clue where all this nonsense will eventually lead? The brokenness is all around us.
There are so many fix-it-yourself philosophies and ideologies and yet, I witness story after story of brokenness and despair. People need to know there is a Lord who loves them and can transform their existence into something redeeming and hopeful. Jesus was a hope magnet.
Even though he would confront people on their lifestyle, their mistakes, their biases, their misconceptions of God, and their sin…he left them with hope. That one key characteristic that elevated a person above the circumstances of their lives and into the very embrace of their heavenly Father.
Imagine a church that emulates hope to that degree. We can be about a lot of activity in the church. Some of it good, some, not so much. We run a lot of programs but has the church created the kind of environment that touches people at their greatest need? The very place that would make them seek out a church in the first place?