Have you ever thought about what inspires people to go to church after they’ve spent months, years, or even a lifetime avoiding it?
In the book I’m writing, I knew I wanted a non-believing character to make the decision to start attending church, but as the story progressed, she wasn’t any where near having a desire to do something like that. When another character invited her, she politely refused. Other writers or readers can tell you what this character needed: motivation.
This character would never be ready to go to church unless her need for God was revealed to her in such a strong way she could no longer politely brush it aside.
Real life people need motivation to go to church, too, and my experience is that it’s the painful stuff that sends people to seek answers from God.
Unfortunately, for as much as it takes to inspire a person to come to church, it doesn’t take much to scare them off, and that’s fair. Church visitors are already in a fragile state because they’re often in pain, or at the very least, are going through the discomfort of being the new person entering a well-established group.
I’ve heard of visitors being turned off to church by not being greeted or even one sad situation where a visitor overheard a comment about how they “took” the seat of a regular attender. I’ve heard of visitors being put on the spot with a (possibly well-meaning?) question about the visitor’s “faith journey.”
It’s sad because each of these situations could’ve been avoided if Christians had been loving and sensitive. Instead, the comments resulted in people visiting church and deciding not to go back.
As followers of Jesus, believers need to be overflowing with his loving and understanding spirit. Jesus said in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment – to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples – if you have love for one another.” (NET)
No wonder an unloving reaction toward visitors makes them run the other way fast. If we don’t show love, how will they know we’re Christ’s true disciples? How will they know we have hope that can heal whatever they’re going through? How will they know that Jesus works?
It’s simple, isn’t it? Greet people, be friendly but not overbearing, make it easy to be the new person. Show love so that everyone will know you’re a disciple of Christ.