Posts Tagged ‘churches that aren’t growing’

He was fighting a battle inside … a battle that had no sign of ending soon.

For his entire life, Bob had attended church services … and enjoyed doing so.  Church was in his DNA.

But recently, things had changed.  Bob no longer felt at home at church … any church.

He tried visiting churches in his community, but never felt comfortable.

During one service, a staff member asked those with a need to stand up so believers nearby could pray for that person.  While Bob had needs, he didn’t feel comfortable having strangers pray for him.

At another church, the pastor said during the announcements, “If you want to attend this event, see Joe.”  The pastor assumed that everybody knew Joe … but Bob didn’t, and felt left out.

Exhausted and frustrated while searching for a home church, Bob took a break a few Sundays and watched a service on television from a megachurch he liked … but he longed to find a church home nearby.

One Saturday night, he went online and located the website of a church that met at a local community college, and since it was close to home, he thought he’d give it a try.

So on Sunday morning, Bob got up on time … showered and dressed … grabbed his Bible … got in his car … and drove to where the church was located.

When he drove into the parking lot, he noticed there weren’t many cars there.  Was this a small church where he might stand out?

When Bob walked into the building, nobody was present to greet him.  As he turned to walk down a long hallway, he noticed a literature table … but no one was there.

As he proceeded down the hallway, he noticed another literature table … again with nobody staffing it.

No one said a word as Bob walked toward what he hoped was the worship center, which he eventually found.

He hesitated for a moment, looking for greeters, but they were talking to each other … with their backs to him … so he slipped into the auditorium … without ever being offered a bulletin.

Bob looked for a seat in the back row, but since some seats were roped off, he walked beyond the ropes and sat down on the second seat next to the aisle.

Looking to the right, he saw a man in a suit talking to three other men against the wall.

Looking toward the front, he saw two other men talking behind the church podium.

Since the church had Bible classes before the service, maybe those men were discussing their studies … but they seemed oblivious to others.

Church growth experts claim that a guest forms 11 impressions about a church within the first 30 seconds … and so far, Bob had only formed negative impressions of this church … but maybe the service would be different.

Suddenly, an older woman appeared at the end of the aisle.  Pointing to the seat next to Bob, she said, “This is my seat.”  And then, pointing to the seat he was sitting in, she said, “And that’s my friend’s seat.”

Already feeling apprehensive, Bob now felt embarrassed.  “Okay, I’ll leave,” he said.

He walked back down the row … back down the hallway … back into the parking lot … and drove home.

Bob turned on the television and once again watched the service broadcast by the megachurch.  The preacher told the congregation how much God loved each one of them.

And Bob thought about his experience at church that morning and wondered:

If people matter to God, why don’t they matter more to God’s people?


If you haven’t yet figured it out, I’m Bob.  This article reflects the frustration that I’m experiencing finding a local church that loves guests without making them feel uncomfortable.

Maybe as a longtime pastor, I’m too critical … but I don’t think so.

Maybe it’s no wonder that 85% of all churches are stagnant or declining in attendance because from my vantage point, most believers are engrossed with their own friendships and concerns on Sundays … and their church simply isn’t ready for company.

The first thing that non-growing churches can do is to ask themselves, “How can we improve the way we welcome our guests?”

It’s not rocket science … but for some reason, most churches think they’re doing fine when they’re failing miserably.

My wife and I once visited a large, prestigious church where we were locked out of the worship center for the first ten minutes while they had a baptism … and then the pastor complained about the decline in church attendance during his sermon.

Please, sir, look in the mirror.

If I feel this way … and I’m a veteran believer … how do you think unbelievers or seekers feel when they visit the average church?

Visiting a church is an anxiety-inducing experience … especially when you’re by yourself … and every time a church isn’t ready for company, it becomes that much harder to visit the next church.

Sometimes people aren’t rejecting Christ … they’re rejecting churches where they instantly sense rejection … and no, it’s not logical.

If Christians are serious about reaching the world for Christ, maybe we can start by better welcoming the guests that God brings to our churches on Sundays.

Remember Jesus’ words?

“… I was a stranger and you invited me in … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:35, 40).


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