How long has it been since you’ve invited an unbelieving or unchurched friend to come and worship with you at Shelby Crossings? How long since you’ve told someone about the difference Christ makes in your life?
I read some statistics this week that got my attention. Did you know that 82% of unchurched Americans say they would come to church if someone invited them. That’s right, even in our increasingly irreligious culture, eight in ten people would come to worship if only there was someone who would extend to them an invitation.
If that surprises you, then how about this: 89% of lost, unbelieving people in this country say they would go to church if someone–a friend, neighbor or relative–walked in the door with them.That is, not just inviting them verbally, but offering them a ride or meeting them at the door, and walking in with them.
I don’t know about you, but I’m more than a little encouraged by those numbers. We have often been led to believe that in today’s culture our lost friends and neighbors are antagonistic against all things church-related, when in fact they are just waiting for us to care enough to invite them to join us.
In another survey, people who are actively involved in their churches were asked, “What or who was responsible for your coming to Christ and your church?” Here are the results: Special need, 1-2%; Walk-in, 2-3%; Pastor, 5-6%, Visitation, 1-2%, Sunday School, 4-5%, Evangelistic crusade 1/2-1%; Church Program, 2-3%; Friend/Relative, 79-86%.
In other words, it was almost always the influence and invitation of a friend or relative that brought them to Christ and church, and had the greatest lasting spiritual impact on their lives. Not a pastor, and not a program–but a friend.
But that brings me to a more disturbing statistic: only 2% of church members in America actually invite unchurched folks to attend on a regular basis. It’s not hard to do the math to realize that if theyare waiting on an invitation, and weare not inviting them, then they will continue down the same hopeless path, without Christ and without the loving community we experience in His family.
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?”(Rom. 10:14, NLT)
Let’s tell them. Let’s invite them. Let’s reach out to our lost and hurting world with the love of Christ this week. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
“Go to church or the Devil will get you!”
If you’ve traveled I-65 between Birmingham and Montgomery, you’ve probably seen those words, along with a picture of “the devil,” on a sign on the side of the interstate near Prattville. I am not sure of the theology behind the sign, but I do believe in “going to church.”
However, it is no secret that a large segment of our society–including many people who would describe themselves as Christians–don’t feel it’s necessary to regularly attend church services. And perhaps many more who do attend, do so more out of a sense of guilt and duty–and devil avoidance–than of joy and celebration of God’s love.
Why do youattend church? Or, if you don’t attend much, why not? It’s a question worth asking, and worth answering. There are several reasons for regular participation in congregational fellowship and worship. And yes, part of our motivation is a sense of faithfulness and obedience–we are called in Scripture to “forsake not assembling ourselves together.”
But there are other reasons, some of which are downright selfish. For instance, did you know that surveys have shown that the best place in America to develop meaningful friendships is church? And in a culture of isolation and loneliness, who doesn’t need genuine friendship?
And how about family life? A Gallup survey of American adults found that the activity believed to most strengthen family life is “attending church or religious activities together.” In other words, the best thing you can do to keep your family strong is go to church together.
If that’s not enough, there are also health reasons. A series of independent medical studies have determined the positive effect that regular church attendance has on a person’s health. Researchers in one study found that those who attend religious services at least once a week have healthier immune systems than those who do not. Another recent study concluded that people who attend church on a regular basis have generally lower blood pressure than those who don’t. Yet another survey conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that those who regularly attended worship services lived an average of seven years longer than those who never attended.
In the most striking finding, Dr. Harold Koenig of Duke University Medical School calculated that “lack of religious involvement has an effect on mortality that is equivalent to 40 years of smoking one pack of cigarettes per day.”
We haven’t even touched on the encouragement, hope and spiritual direction we get in a community of believers who are there to support us and lead us to a deeper level of faith in Christ. And yet, it’s obvious, we really can’t afford not to go to church!
So, let’s stay away from the Devil, and join together this Sunday at The Church at Shelby Crossings this Sunday. I look forward to seeing you there.
One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips has Charlie Brown, with one of those quizzical looks on his face, saying: “Change wouldn’t be so bad if things didn’t have to be different.”
That quote comes to mind as we face the changes associated with adding a second worship service this Sunday. This is an exciting time for our church, as we make a much-needed move to alleviate the over-crowded conditions in our worship services. But it also brings change–and that means some things will be different.
No doubt, change can be a hard thing. At one time the Duke of Cambridge is reported to have said, “Any change at any time for any reason is to be deplored.” That sounds like the old saying, “Come weal, come woe, my status is quo.” Such an attitude can be deadly in any setting, especially in the church.
No one likes to be pushed out of their comfort zones, or shaken from our routines. Even the pioneers eventually become settlers. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is their any hope for them.” Maybe there’s hope for us after all.
For some of us, the change to two services will inevitably unsettle us a bit. There may be some inconveniences, there will be some bumps in the roads, and I’m sure something will come up that we haven’t even considered. But this change is necessary, and in the end, it will be good for our church.
For one, this is an issue of faithfully managing the resources God provides for us. As such, this move allows us to basically double our worship space, at no additional cost. Until we find or build a permanent location–and we have been actively exploring our options for a new building for a while now–these warehouses on George Roy Parkway are where the Lord has us and we need to be the best stewards possible of this space.
Another advantage of two services is that it allows us a second option for worship, that will be attractive to those who for whatever reason prefer an earlier worship time. But the main reason for this change is, it allows us more space to reach our community. This is not just about comfort for those of us who are already here, it is about providing room for those whom we have not even met yet, that the Lord is going to lead our way as we reach out to our neighbors, make disciples and live out the Great Commission to our communities.
So we face this change with excitement, and with much prayer, that God will have His way with us, His people. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us, and I can’t wait to see you on Sunday.
This is a tale of a chicken. Which, of course, is different than a tail of a chicken.
As you have probably heard or seen by now, we had a strange visitor show up for church last week at Shelby Crossings. Our feathered friend was standing at the door to the office when we arrived on Sunday morning, and has since made her roost next to the air conditioning units outside the building.
It was quite a surreal moment to be met by a hen at the church doors. We have always said we wanted to be welcoming to anyone who wanted to come to our church, but I don’t think we ever imagined that the anyone who would show up would be a chicken. This is certainly not the first time a chicken has been a part of a church function, but usually when they show up they are fried and in a bucket or on a platter.
The story got even crazier as the week progressed. On Tuesday some folks from our church family who live on a farm came to see about adopting the chicken and giving it a new home. After they arrived, one of the employees from the bread distribution center next door saw them and walked over and picked up the bird. And this is where the chicken tale got even more bizarre.
Apparently the chicken had belonged to the man, and had been sick for a while. He had tried to treat its condition, but it never would get better. So, not wanting to see his other chickens infected, he decided it was time to kill the chicken. After a few deadly blows, the lifeless chicken was thrown into the back of his pick-up and he planned to dispose of its body the next day when he went to work.
But when he arrived at the bread store the next day, the now resurrected chicken sprang forth from the bed of the truck. The man was shocked, and just couldn’t bring himself to “kill” the chicken a second time. He figured a coyote would probably come and take care of the dirty deed for him, and left the bird to fend for itself.
He had no idea that it would make its way next door to a kind and loving flock of gracious chicken-lovers who brought her grits, bread, tomatoes, chicken feed and water, and offered her unconditional love. She is truly a church’s chicken, at least for now, and has even been given a name: Benny (as in Benny Hen). Some have mentioned bringing her to the church picnic next week. On a leash, I hope.
I really worked hard to come up with a good “moral of the story” here, to no avail. Really, it’s just a weird and funny tale about an unlikely chicken who showed up at of all places, a church. But isn’t that the story of all of us? Just a bunch of lost, sick and confused birds, beaten down by the world, who find a second chance at new life when we come to Christ, and to his unlikely followers, the church.
I’m sure glad to be a part of this “flock” with each of you. I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.