I’ve been thinking about what places we have for the people who don’t have places yet.
What do I mean by that? How will we receive people who haven’t regularly been part of a church, or at least not in the recent past? I think it means more than just saying “Well, if they want to start coming to church, they can start coming here”. That ignores a reality that if they wanted to start coming on our terms, they would have. What are their terms? Why did they “quit” church in the first place?
The reasons are probably as varied as the individuals who have them. Some maybe quit because they got mad. More likely, they quit for the same reasons many of us quit going to a particular restaurant or other business.
I used to eat at a specific taco place quite often. It was a regular lunch stop for me. But I don’t go there as often anymore. A few things factored in to that. My dad’s heart problems pushed me to eat healthier, which I need to renew my commitment to again. But the greasy burrito el pastor that I loved to eat and ate often just wasn’t on the plan as much. Darn good burrito, but doesn’t fit my needs anymore. Again, not the places fault. The burrito is good. They still cook it just great. I just shouldn’t eat it like I used to.
Another place we used to go has changed. Not nearly as good as it used to be. I don’t know if a cook quit and the next person doesn’t know what they are doing, or if they decided to change recipes and others like it better now, but we just don’t. So we stopped eating there.
Another place I used to frequent just got boring to me. Nothing changed about me… I still eat hamburgers. And their food didn’t change. I just don’t go there as often because, well, I’m not sure why. Just got tired of it.
Why would someone drop out of church? Maybe these same reasons. Maybe their ‘taste’ in church stuff changed and they didn’t find another place that met them where they were. Like the burrito I don’t need anymore, they just quit. No reflection on the church. It just didn’t have what they needed.
Or maybe the things they experienced at church just weren’t good any more. There are lots of people disaffected by church, whether it be church politics, a lukewarm commitment, a desire for something they just don’t see. Like the restaurant that we quit because it just doesn’t taste good anymore.
And maybe they just got bored with where things were. Just wanted something different.
My point? Well, if I have one, it is that we have to be a kind of place that lets people come in on their terms. Maybe they won’t be regular worshipers, but want to be involved on those fringes. The more, though, we expect them to be ‘like us’, the less they are likely to like us. Jesus met people where they were. He took them on their own terms. He didn’t tell Zachaeus “You’ve got to change and be like me.” He said “Zach, get out of the tree because dinner is at your place.” He opened the relationship. Zach only got involved later.