I’m not in a mood. Honest.
This is not a post in which I surreptitiously have a go at our congregations. I’m sure I’ve done that. It’s not godly but it’s hugely cathartic. Honestly though, this time, I’m not angry. I’m actually rejoicing at the numbers of visitors that we had at our Nativity Tableau yesterday morning. It was a great little crowd. It was a terrific morning. I’m still reflecting on the talk that our assistant minister, Pete Matthew, gave on the Nunc Dimittis. What do you see when you look at the child Jesus? It’s a great question. But the issue of this post has been buzzing round in my head for a while and so I thought I’d commit it to paper. Virtual paper.
Why don’t people come to evangelistic events? I don’t mean people in general. Their absence is understandable; many non-Christians don’t want to hear the gospel. I mean Christians in particular. And I especially mean Christians who are part of our churches. Their absence is, let me put this gently; less understandable!
But I’m in an understanding sort of a mood at the moment. So I’m going to try and think of the reaons why Christians might absent themselves from Church evangelistic events.
Reason 1: Guilt
We stay away because we feel guilty that we never approached anyone with an invitation. It may well be the correct feeling to have. We may well be guilty of not inviting anyone and so we ought to feel guilty for our sin of omission. But why turn one sin into two? So you didn’t invite anyone. That’s not the best outcome. Ask for forgiveness. Rejoice in the cross. And press on. But why compound the mistake with another one and stay away from an event that needs your support?
Reason 2: Shame
We’re embarassed that we haven’t got anyone to bring. We feel ashamed because we know it’ll be humiliating to pitch up to an event for outsiders with no one in tow. And so we fear what our friends will say or perhaps we fear most what our friends will think. Protecting our self righteousness can’t be a good motive for staying away, can it? And so instead of trying to keep our reputation intact why not pitch up and get involved in helping others. I want my friends to meet others in church. It may well be that they’re able to engage my friend in a conversation about the gospel. My friend may prefer to open up to a welcoming stranger and say what they really mean because they have nothing to lose. Churches need ‘all hands on deck’ at evangelistic events, competing with one another to welcome the guests. Obvisouly there are a few qualifying statements that I’d want to add to that. But you get the picture.
Reason 3: Laziness
We just can’t be bothered to go to something that’s not intended specifically for me. Of course, it’s true that most evangelistic events do not have professing Christians in the cross hairs. They’re not intended principally for that audience. But neither are they intended exclusively for non-Christians. Christians need to hear the gospel too. I’m a sinner in need of a Saviour. And I need to keep being reminded that Jesus is my Saviour because, in my sin, I keep reinventing psuedo-saviours. I need to hear the gospel because it declares that there is only one. And so my motives for staying away may reveal that I’m a proud arrogant toerag who thinks that he doesn’t need to hear the gospel to be saved. And so it may be spiritually dangerous to stay away from evangelistic events.
Reason 4: Busyness
We’ve just got too much in the diary and this event ended up clashing with Salsa/Studying/Speed Dating. Busyness is a pressing concern in London. But the real issue is prioritisation. We need to ask where our prioties lie. And more importantly, where they should lie. It may well be that the priority ought to be salsa class. But not necessarily. A prior arrangement isn’t necessarily a prior commitment. We need to work out what we ought to be doing. It may well be that we need to commit to less so that there’s more space in the diary.
Those were the four main reasons that I could think of for staying away. It ought to be clear that I don’t think that they’re good reasons! But have I been fair? What are the ones I’ve missed?