All the cool, successful bloggers out there have occasional “guest bloggers,” and so (wanting to be cool and successful) I’ve invited my favorite blogger to guest blog for me. Yes, as it turns out, she’s also my daughter, so I didn’t have to pay anything for this. And I’m also proud to introduce her to you. Meet Sarah Brouwer. She’s Associate Pastor for Congregational Care at Ladue Chapel, an 1800-member Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in suburban St. Louis. The views of guest bloggers are not necessarily the view of the totally cool and so-very-important head blogger here, but in this case I’m totally in agreement (and wish I had written it before she did).
On the rare occasion my whole family is together (immediate and extended!) we almost inevitably end up talking about church. We’re a churchy family. I along with two of my cousins have become pastors. Yes, Doug’s one, too. And my mother’s an elder, along with half my aunts and uncles (approximation here). Oh, we are SO COOL in my family. Except, when we’re not.
The thing is, church isn’t cool anymore. (Was it ever?) No one my age goes to church. In fact, most people of most ages don’t go to church – it’s just not the thing to do. Granted, most folks in this country believe in something, but you can get that thing in nature (apparently, but I’m more of an indoor girl myself). My dentist told me the other day that he was leaving to go to his church next week…in the Rockies.
But I’m not here to barrage you with woes about church attendance, or lack thereof. I want to offer a few ideas, though, on how to get your friends to church. It’s called… wait for it… evangelism. Yes. If you believe that Jesus has transformed your life, you’re called to shout it from the mountaintops! Not really, but you could!
I’ve learned a few things in my brief time in ministry. The most important thing being relationships are KEY to evangelism. Oh, you knew that already.
The thing is, like I said, church isn’t cool anymore. And frankly, relationships are hard. People spend all their time dealing with relationships elsewhere, and they’re sick of doing it come Sunday. They deal with relationships in business, family, friends, children, colleagues, etc., and they don’t want to do more of it in a place that isn’t going to move them, change them, transform them.
So here’s our dilemma: no one’s coming to church because church isn’t cool. But, those of us who are here, who are not cool, are called to evangelize. Evangelism, I think, is best done in relationships with others. But, who wants to be friends with uncool people?
Here’s what I think. I think people are craving community – real, authentic, genuine community with folks who care about them, and show them what it means to live out the good news of the Gospel. But, they don’t have time to figure us out. They think we’re weird with our rituals and our stories and our judgmental stuff, and they can’t see past all that muckity muck to the heart of the Christian life. People don’t and won’t know what we are all about and how wonderful it is unless we build relationships with them… and stalk them until they come to church.
But, seriously. The most amazing ministry I’ve started at my new church in St. Louis is a young women’s book club. We meet once a month. Hardly any of them come to church on a regular basis, but they make it to book club (maybe for the wine and cheese but, hey, it works). This book club, which now has almost 30 young women on the email address list, has now become like a little church. And while I am really going to try and say this without sounding like I’m bragging, though I am, the reason they come is because of me. I’ve worked my tail off to build relationships with them. I take them to coffee. I email them relentlessly. I don’t back off. I buy them lunch. I follow up when they come to book club and tell them how awesome it was that they were there. I also hold them accountable when they don’t come, though usually it’s in the form of a “we really, really missed you last night, but know you must be super busy.” Trust me, these girls know that I am NOT COOL. But, I know they want to be around me, and around each other. Together, we’re different from the usual people they run into on a day-to-day basis. They know that I care about them, and I care about them because I love Jesus, and they, in turn, are starting to know about Jesus, too, and love one another. It’s beautiful. It’s church.
There are some downsides to this process, though. As an uncool person, you can tend to feel rejection easily. I get it but, trust me, it’s not personal. People do get busy. They won’t come to stuff. Deal with it.
So many church people I know often refuse to involve people on the outskirts (especially young adults) because they aren’t reliable. Eventually they don’t try to include them in anything and write them off. IF YOU FEEL THESE THINGS, THEN NONE OF THIS WILL WORK. Just remember… it’s not about you.
Evangelism through relationships is hard work. But knowing that you were responsible for pulling someone in, for showing them the beauty of being in community and finding Christ? That’s reward enough right there. And God will thank you, too.
I know I write more than Doug does, but hopefully you made it this far.
Here’s my benediction:
Go out, you uncool church people. Go pursue those people on the margins. Write them emails, Facebook them, call them, tell them you want to SEE them, and do it in Jesus’ name. They’ll think you’re weird, but they’ll love you for it in the end. Amen.