I went to the gym this week. It wasn’t easy; I haven’t been in three weeks, for a number of reasons excuses. Once I was there, it was good; but getting myself through the door was definitely a challenge. I came up with several pathetic and cliché excuses not to go back: too tired, too busy, too sunny outside, forgot my iPod, etc. And the longer I stayed away, the easier it got, and the more intimidating the idea of going back through those doors became.
So what brought me back? It was a phone call from a gym employee, just touching base with me. They’d noticed I hadn’t been in a while and hoped I was well. That was it: simple, casual, invitational, guilt-free.
And so I went back.
Nothing had changed; the staff were still helpful, other folks working out were friendly, equipment was still well maintained.
What had changed was me. It had been easy to get into a routine of going to the gym when I first signed up, but a simple break in pattern made it easy to avoid the gym. And so now I’m in the process of once again giving importance and priority to my gym attendance. I know I will benefit from it, I know it is healthy, I know I want to make it a regular part of my life.
Church is like that, I find. For many, it is good to get into a routine of attending and participating; but it’s also just as easy to get into the routine of NOT participating. The reasons become excuses, until it changes from a priority to “something I used to do.”
I’ve heard anecdotally that often people come to church because they are asked; they are invited. Whether they are formerly regulars that just haven’t been seen in a while, or if they’ve only ever attended weddings and funerals,
So the challenge is upon us. It is up to us to invite someone to join us in the church. It is up to us to be the welcoming community of Christians that we should be when we gather. It’s up to us to encourage people to come to church, and not judge them if they choose not to come (or, after a visit if they choose not to come back). It’s up to us to invite and welcome; it’s up to the Spirit to stir up in them a desire to be part of the church.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all looked at that door for the first time, or the first time in a while. We’ve all felt that twinge of letting our unfounded fears justify another week avoiding worship. So we know what others are feeling when they’re facing that door.
But we also know that once we’re there, walking through that door and into that community can be good—very good. We’ll wonder why we ever skipped it in the past, and hope that we won’t relapse away again. We know that being in worshiping community is healthy and beneficial and truly a delight, something we want to share with our loved ones.
So let’s take that first step, and make that friendly invitation, to come through those doors.