We’re in the midst of Holy Week and nearing Easter, the most attended church day of the year. I know some church-goers are excited about all of the families they’re going to see at service, but I’ve already heard the grumblings of Saints complaining about those people. You know the ones; The ones who only come to church once a year. Whether it be because they’re nagged into it, or because there will be food(which always seems to draw a crowd). They’ll be there.
For some, this is a bittersweet season. You’ll often hear, with a somber tone, ‘At least they come on Easter…’ It’s becoming progressively hard to get people into the church over the years, so it good to rejoice anytime people decide to show, even if only for food.
For others, this is an annoyance. You’ll also hear, with a grim tone, ‘Can you believe them? They only come on Easter…’ Some people like for their congregations to only consist of the people they see every week. I’ve never been fond of this mentality, and am quick to point out that the church isn’t a social club with a ‘members only’ sign.
I suppose I can see the justification for both positions. To be totally transparent, I’m not the most patient person you’ll ever meet. I don’t waste my time listening to excuses. Sometimes my temper gets the best of me, and I come off a little harsher than I mean to. I’m a work in progress. So, I can understand the frustration of those who are disgruntled about the people who only go to church once a year. But, at the same time, I try not to be contemptuous to those who are strangers to the church, because I used to be one.
In the early two thousands when my contemporaries started leaving the church in mass (pun intended), I was with them. I remember walking away, and all of the reasons why I did. Sometimes I still see people demonstrating the same attitudes that helped push me out the door. My journey back to the narrow path hasn’t been, and still isn’t, an easy one. It’s hard to see people with hardened hearts not make outsiders feel welcome.
This brings us to the point I want to make today. Easter service is only a few days away. I would hope that everyone would take a moment and consider the opportunity that this season presents to us. Soon, if you’re a church goer, you’re going to be sitting next to people you don’t know well or don’t know at all. Consider, if you will, the perspective of the people who only attend church this time of year. They don’t go to service as often as most of the “good-Christians” say they should. They likely don’t live their lives in complete harmony with the word. They may only be there because there will be food, Easter baskets, egg-hunts, etc. But still, they will be there. Something in them is telling them that the church is where they should be. The fire within them may not be burning bright, but this is your chance to fan the flame.
We’re called to go forth and share the good news. How great is it that those yearning to be found would walk in the very doors we try ardently to bring them through? This is not a time to be flippant and chastise people for their poor attendance or lifestyle choices. This is a time to be a beacon. You don’t have to have a prepared sermon about how great God is, or how Jesus has changed your life. Everyone has heard that before. Most of those searching will turn a deaf ear to “The Speech.” Instead of talking incessantly, I would ask that you listen. Many people, in their own time, will tell why they don’t go to church, why they don’t feel welcome, or why they don’t feel like they need God in their life. After you’ve finished listening, try to hear what they’re saying; Not in an auditory sense, but an emotional one. Faith for you may not be as easy for someone else, often times due to life experiences you can’t relate to, or reasons you’ll never understand. Saying “Well, if you would read your bible more…” in an arrogant tone just doesn’t work. Do you know what works? Love.
It’s as simple as it is poetic. Jesus was betrayed, beaten, and mocked. He was whipped, having flesh ripped from his body. His bones were broken, nails the size of railroad spikes were driven into his hands and feet. He hanged on a cross until he died; because He loved you. He loved you the same way He calls us to love each other. I urge you all to remember that in the coming days.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
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