I wrote this for The Dialogue, the newsletter of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in St. Joseph, MO. Often, I'll post my newsletter columns here.
There are two times of year when people who do not normally attend church think about doing so: Christmas and Easter. Rather than being critical of such thinking, we regular churchgoers should be thankful that Christmas and Easter still have enough of a religious cache in our culture to provoke people to consider darkening a church door. The thought of going to church by people who have either stopped attending or who never have attended may be something that has been in the back of a person’s mind for months or may be something that pops in their head when they hear a familiar Christmas carol. Either way, from the perspective of faith, we should consider these moments to be the promptings of the Holy Spirit and an opportunity for God to bring a person into a community of faithfulness and care.
The window for people to actually take action to try out a church is relatively short during Easter; maybe you’ve got Palm Sunday and Holy Week, but the window shuts quickly. At Christmastime, however, the window stays open for about a month after the busyness of Thanksgiving passes and people turn their minds to gift-giving, holiday parties and maybe even things of a spiritual dimension. This month is the time you need to invite a friend to church.
Pay close attention because I am not talking about just any friend; I mean the friend of yours who may actually be interested in a church like First Christian. This friend is the one you have actually talked with now and then about spiritual matters, the friend who grew up in church but quit coming as an adult because he or she couldn’t find a place in his or her life for a religion that was close-minded, exclusive or judgmental. This may be the friend who doesn’t quite believe you when you say, “My church doesn’t believe that.” Or, “My church would not have judged that kind of person.” You need to invite that friend who would be pleasantly surprised that an open-minded and welcoming church like First Christian actually exists.
I am not asking you to invite a friend who already attends another church; there is no need for stealing sheep from another pasture. I am not asking you to invite a friend in order to convert them or sell them anything. No, I am asking you to invite your friend who can use a church like First Christian, a community of faith that will care for them and walk with them on their journey. If you will think hard about what First Christian means to you, I believe you will quickly think about someone who could use the same. (By the way, those of you who claim all your friends already go to church, feel free to let me know, because I have some suggestions of who you could invite.) The Christmastime window is only open for a short time, so invite your friend before it closes.
Grace and Peace,