This Sunday is back to Church Sunday here in the UK. Churches up and down the country, my Corps included, will be making an extra effort to invite people to church.
The folks behind the initiative are making a serious effort... with t-shirts, posters, feedback cards, balloons and postcards. There is even a couple of prayers specifically for the event... one of which goes like this:
Heavenly Father, thank you for this day.It is not my intention to be negative here. I commend the folk involved for their efforts and for all the marketing nous they have poured into it.
We remember that we are created and loved by you.
We welcome you now as you have already welcomed us.
We pray that we may know the power of your personal invitation in our own lives.
Give us confidence to offer a friend (Your friend's name here) your personal invitation.
We pray for Back To Church Sunday and thank you for the gift of church as community.
Make us aware of you.
We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen
But the thing is this... why should folk come back to church? Why should they come to us? Why should they leave the spaces and places that they feel comfortable... and come into our space... come into our place... a building that may be alien to them! Why should they make the first move?
The organisers of this event have made it all about relationships and invitation... and that's the way it should be! As I said I am not trying to be awkward or negative here.
Its just that we are expecting an awful lot from folks... and as I get older and grow in my understanding of church and its mission... the more I come to realise that its us that need to get out of our church buildings... get off our comfy chairs and out of our cars... and get into our the communities that we live/play in proximity with.
We need to reject this destructive idea that church is where God is found and for people to find God... they need to come to church. God isn't lost... He's in world! He's in the places we are too scared to go! He's with the poor... the hungry... the lost... the bankrupt... and He's waiting for us to join Him. We don't need a sacred building to meet with God. We don't have the monopoly on His presence. He is everywhere and we can meet with Him at any time... in any place.
We also don't need people to help us connect with God. We don't need priests or pastors or elders or sweet wee grannies with pots of tea to help us connect with God. There is no barrier between us and Him... thanks to Jesus who sorted all that out for us.
Maybe... just maybe... this weekend could become more than "Back to Church Sunday"... it could also be the start of us, the church, getting back into the world... if we aren't there already?
So yeah... take courage and invite a friend to church this Sunday... but please, in doing so, be prepared to leave the comfort of your own wee Christian bubble and enter their world! A beautiful but broken world with all its ups and downs... its highs and lows... its loves and losses. Enter their world and be prepared to get all messed up. In doing so... can guarantee you'll find the fingerprints of God... who has been there before us... already!