A few years ago, someone gave me a book to read called “The Secret Life of Dogs.” In the book, the author sought to answer the question: What do dogs want? Now that might not be a question that would ever occur to you to even ask. But this author took up the question seriously. What she discovered – especially for owners of dogs – will probably not come as a big surprise. What dogs want most… is other dogs.
A critical question that doesn’t often occur to people who have grown up in church is: What is it that people outside of the church want? What might bring a person with no religious background or experience through our doors on a Sunday morning? Once again, the answer is obvious when you stop and think about it. But, surprisingly, for those of us who have essentially grown up in the lap of God, it isn’t always the first thing to come to mind. What people with no experience of Church are looking for when they come through our doors is an authentic experience of God.
Martha Grace Reese, in her research on churches with high rates of adult baptisms, posed a question to the newest members of these growing churches. The question she asked was simply this: What made you ready to join this church? Their answers had nothing to do with the style of worship, nor the theology, nor their denominational affiliation. For those who had never before learned about Jesus or participated in a community of faith, the primary answer they gave was simply “something was missing from my life.”
Those of us who have been around the church all our lives can never forget the church exists for this one reason. The church exists to fill that empty place in the lives of people who have never had an experience of God. In all of the business of the church, most of which is necessary to facilitate our ministries, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of our primary purpose. Before long, we can begin to see the purpose of the church as having everything to do with what makes me happy – what I want – and what brings me a sense of comfort and peace.
Of course, God wants you to be comfortable and happy. But remember, this is the same God about whom Jesus told the parables of the lost sheep and the prodigal son. In other words, this is the same God who will (seemingly) disregard the feelings or needs of those already in the fold in order to reach out those who are lost. If you aren’t comfortable with that, you can always complain to the pastor or take it up with the executive board – but a better place to begin would be with Jesus. He is, after all, the one who started all this.
As we continue our E-vent, let us never forget that our primary purpose is to provide the very thing that people who have never known God want the most. Our mission happens at the very place where other’s needs intersect with what we have to offer! That not only makes sense, but in my mind is truly Good News!