Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Build it and they will come

Last Sautrday, when I visited another church's Christmas bazaar, I sat and had lunch with the co-chairs of the event.  I introduced myself and we shared about our churches.  We shared about how they are shells of what they once were and/or have the potential to be.  They noted how terrible their parking situations is.  If only we had better parking people would come, they lamented.

Blame in on the rain, yeah yeah!  I started singing to myself.

Before I go any further with my thought process, I will stop and recongize that yes, having a difficult parking situation can be a challenge to church growth.  Buildings, expensive land, no available land, no parking, terrible location are all challenges to churches indeed.  There are also lots of logistical challenges especially for the elderly, the very young, and the disabled.

There are also lots of lame and not so lame excuses for not going to church.  Some lame excuses that cross my mind every Saturday night: I'm tired.  I don't want to walk a block.  I don't feel well.  I don't really want to see that person there.  I have to get up and out of the house with everyone dressed and be there on time.   Okay, that one is so not lame.  Totally legit.  I'd much rather be training for a marathon.  Oh no, never mind.  I'd much rather be blogging.  Oh yes, that's me.

Some more valid than others.  This is really not a GO TO CHURCH essay.  It's really a WHAT BRINGS PEOPLE TO CHURCH? essay.  It's a WHY GO TO CHURCH essay.  It's a WHY DO I GO TO CHURCH essay.

I don't go to church because I have a parking spot.  Would be nice, wouldn't it?  But all the staff and clergy parking is gone.  And I'm not really staff or clergy anyway, so no, I don't have a spot.  I don't go to church because I'm paid.  Nope, not paid.  I don't go to church because it's cool.  It's only still cool in the South.

I go to church because of that wild card experience I get (almost) every time.  The inexplicable feeling I get when I enter worship with a group of people.  It's the Holy Spirit.  Somehow my cup is filled.  My belly is satisfied.  God uses the Holy Spirit to touch me in some intangible way.

The connections I get with the congregation also keep me coming back.  It's the homeless person lined up behind a law partner for communion that touches me.  It's the family of 3 coming up for communion.  The family of 3 that shouldn't be 3, but with a miracle from God that baby is alive.  It's the intergenerational friendships that touch me in a way the "real world" can't.

Parking doesn't bring me to church.  I think about how we paid big bucks to park half a mile from Texas Stadium and thought that was a good parking situation.  I think of the homeless men and women who walked across a cold city to come to Shepherd's Heart, our church in Pittsburgh.

Blaming parking is a distraction from some real reasons people don't go to church.

Is love and forgiveness being communicated at church?  Is the Good News being preached?  Are we a warm, friendly environment that helps people know God and know each other?

I don't know.  Are we?  Am I?

These are the questions that I want to ask myself instead of worrying about parking or comfortable chairs or something else.  Because these won't bring people to church (movie theaters have great chairs and big parking lots!), but the nourishment of God will.


Molly said...

At church last week, I was surprisingly welcomed by a girl I didn't know, but she knew me. Creepy? Maybe, but she was really nice so I'm letting the creep factor slide. I've visited this church off and on for a few months. Families I knew from my college town told me about it. They know the minister, and the minister's daughter (aka the girl who greeted me). She introduced herself and told me she is currently in the sorority I was in while I was a college. "My big sister is Molly" she told me. "OH! I love Molly, I taught her Bible study the whole time she was in high school," I said. "I know," she said (and she apparently knew what I looked like). Creepy? Maybe, but like I said, she was really nice.

Stories like that... that's what keeps me going back.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Wow, so well said, Emily, I just wanna fist pump in agreement. hahaha :) Though amittedly, I have to admit that these days church is much more stressful with the long hours (we basically are at church every sunday from 7:45 am to at least 1 or 2 - with Eden!)... and so it's often harder for me to get as much out of the service as I used to - but I still love it and I get something out of the community and God's ability to use little things to help me worship... Like sunlight through stained glass :)

Anyways, I really just meant to say "Amen!" :)

Alex and Emily said...

Molly, sounds like you're a legend!

I've been thinking about that lately. I think I'd rather embarrass myself and be overly friendly than be silent, which is often perceived as rude.

Neena said...

Yes! As one who is frequently embarrasses herself, I have a wealth of acquaintances and friends! It is being approachable that can be a great building block to building a church!

Dorry said...

I love the reference to walking so far to attend a football game. So true - where are the priorities? This post really made me think about the excuses I come up with to not attend church and none of them are legit. Thanks for getting me thinking.

Alex and Emily said...


While there are many pathetic reasons for attending or not attending church, there are also perfectly legit reasons as well. I don't want this post to be a "go to church or else!" post.

I think Christians and churchy people like myself need to get real about the deeper reasons someone might want to go or not go to church and not just blame it on the rain. (Although blaming it on the rain is SO much easier.)