They weren’t here. I did not see them. I am looking at the list of “absentees” from worship this past month and like every month, I wonder, “why are they not attending regularly?” Is it the preaching? Is it our congregational singing? Are we not welcoming? Do they not feel important, needed, and appreciated? Do they not know how much God has done for them?
When I talk with Christians about worship, Bible class, and fellowship attendance I get a variety of responses.
- Churches talk too much politics.
- The church is weak on doctrine.
- Church is out of touch with culture.
- Church is not as entertaining as ____________.
The responses are not stated exactly like that, but those are some that I hear – between the lines. There is one more factor in play. This reason usually goes something like this:
“I don’t have any friends (know anyone or have anything in common with anyone) there.”
If you have heard this said about where you worship, then please keep reading. If this is how you feel; if this is why you are not regularly (multiple times weekly) gathering with other Christians in worship and study; then please keep reading.
First I want to talk to the church. I have something to say to every Christian. Listen up!
People want to be with friends.
There I said it and you can help. We can have scheduled and impromptu gatherings at the building, in homes, in parks, and at restaurants, where Christians and their friends can get together for friendly fun fellowship. We can reach out to our guests and include them in our conversations. We can introduce them to others at our assemblies and small group fellowships and help them form acquaintances that can develop into friendships. We can even bring long-time church members into our group of friends. We can make all of our gatherings welcoming events. We may have to catch-up with our regular group or family at a later date. Smartphones make this easier.
Now to those of you who struggle to attend for lack of connection, let me talk with you. I want to be as kind and understanding as possible. I say this with compassion,
“Try to make some friends.”
In the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice Mr. Darcy says in defense, “I … do not have the talent of conversing easily with people I have never met before.” Elizabeth Bennett, while sitting at the piano having been forced to paly and scolded for lack of practice by Mr. Darcy’s aunt retorts, “Perhaps you should take your aunt’s advice and practice.”
An acquaintance of mine tells an account of being a guest at a congregation while on vacation. He could not believe how unfriendly the people were, even those sitting on the same row with him did not speak, they barely even acknowledged his presence. Finally, he decided to introduce himself and force them to at least talk. When he did, the person seemed relieved, and said so. They were also a guest and thought he was an unfriendly member!
Here is the point. Please do not walk in late and leave early. Be there long enough for people to have an opportunity to meet you. Introduce yourself and ask a question or two. At most congregations there are people there 30 minutes before assembly and some stay just as long after having conversations and making plans for getting together away from the building.