Shusaku Endo wrote “Silence” a tale of the life of a priest in search for his mentor who had been reported as denouncing the faith.
I’m not terribly evangelical, but when I get really excited about something, I want others involved. Be it swimming, reading, or sharing in a life devoted to Christ, I want others involved. I want them to jump in and take the trip with me in whatever fashion they can join in. My life in Christ is more than a source of comfort and joy, it is how I have come to shape and define who exactly I am.
The same could be said of Shusaku’s main character who cannot even imagine what would cause his leader to become apostate as he sets off for Japan. He sets off to share himself, his life and all he has with the people of Japan. He wants more than anything to care for them. And here, I’ll let off of Endo’s book for another time.
I think for a lot of mainline Christians, we’ve lost that impulse to self sacrifice that would lead us to offer ourselves for the sake of others. Even in wanting to reach others we are unwilling to take care of what needs done and letting go what needs left undone. Perhaps largely because it all needs doing and we’ve been the only ones to do it for so long. Bitterness creeps in where we’ve been working so hard and they’re new they can take over.
Lately, I’ve been overly annoyed at characterizations of millennials that feel more like caricatures of millennials. One article talked for ever about how ritual doesn’t mean anything to millennials which I find doubly perplexing because millennials have plenty of rituals and tastes that are diverse and the only coherent pattern is that we like rituals and patterns that draw us in that help us participate in worship. Of course that’s not universal, but it is what I’ve seen.
So Here’s a List of 3 Things to Consider
1) Demographics lie. Your mission field and who you have an affinity with those are related. Demographics don’t really help anyone from what I can tell. If you aren’t connecting with the people across the street from the church, you wont be able to make a connection unless you change.
2) Relationships not Numbers – build relationships not attendance numbers. If you don’t have little groups having parties celebrating the life in Christ, you probably aren’t making as big a difference as you might think from the attendance. It is also unlikely that you’ll have much momentum.
3) Meals and meetings – meals build relationships, and meetings need be short. Build relationships over meals and then make meetings short and to the point. In other words, get things done leading into the meetings not at meetings.
4) Sacrifice for the other – give up some of the sacred cows and holy pews for the sake of new comers. Sit up front because new people like to sit in the back. Invite others to sit with you until you fill up your pew. While you may not like giving up a job, give it up when someone new comes.
If you’re new consider:
1) Take the initiative – open up the conversation! Ask if you can sit with someone! Join in on conversation make jokes. Ask someone you’ve never met their name and thank them for letting you ask a second time and tell them how great it was to meet them again (all on the first meeting, you want to have a sense of humor don’t you?).
2) Volunteer – Volunteer but only for brief periods of time to see where you can fit in the life of the church. Expect criticism because people are people and even in grace they can be sticks in the mud. Take someones job and love them anyway.
3) Have fun with the process – Enjoy the awkwardness, going to a new church is like going out on a date – you probably wont know if you really like her until you’ve gone a few times and by then it’s over and you’re sold. Take the time and enjoy getting to know a church and understand that no matter what church you find there will always be something to grind on your nerves.