Can I Come to Church?
You get a lot of different calls as a pastor, but this phone call was particularly unusual. It started off quite normally but the purpose was a bit surprising. The young lady on the other end of the line was asking if she could come to church. I could have simply said yes, and hung up, but there seemed to be more to the question. After a few niceties and a few more questions and a bit of awkward silence, she asked, “How do I come?…Can I just come in the front door?…Do I have to be a member?” The questions sounded strange, but it occurred to me that I don’t know how difficult it is to get into church, because I’ve always been “in”. I’ve never had to come from outside. Sure, I’ve visited churches where I am not a member, churches of other denominations with unfamiliar practices, but always with a basic working knowledge of how churches work.
In this case, I asked her if she wanted a “dry run” – in other words, to come and visit the church. I could show her through, show her where she could sit, and how to “come in”. She loved that idea, and when she came, we talked for over an hour. How and why this all started is another story, but it made me realise that many people won’t just come to church. A lot needs to happen first, and most of it is in relationship forming. Our plan to welcome new people into church, therefore, may need to start potentially years before they actually sit in a pew.
We always need to be asking the “new person” question, when we plan or do anything in the church. How will this impact the new person? What will the new person think of this activity? Where will they sit? Will they be able to get a coffee afterwards? Do they know they are allowed to?
Well, she did come to church, and seemed to enjoy it. The following week, she brought her daughter and two grandkids. A little while later, two other daughters. A series of studies later, half a dozen baptisms ensued. While they will never be your “usual” Lutheran member, and there will often be some unusual questions, lifestyle choices and more, they now know they can come to church.