One Reason Our Church Stays Small: The Slow Spiritual Simmer

Good neighbors 200cThere aren’t a lot of first-time conversions in our congregation. At least not among adults.

What we have instead, are de-churched people becoming re-churched. And it usually takes a while.

After all, people become de-churched for a reason. So they often need some time to let things simmer in their spirits in order for trust to be re-established and faith to take root.

Here’s how it usually happens. A person is raised in a home in which they’re dragged to church by their parents, only to be bored to tears every week. When they leave for college, they leave the church, too. A few years go by and they find themselves single or married with kids. One day their 5-year-old tugs on their sleeve and says “My friend at school says they go to church. What’s church?”

The parent gasps in horror as they realize the gap that’s been in their family’s life. But they’re not sure what to do. They still like what they know about Jesus and they’d appreciate a good worship experience at a good church, but they don’t want to subject their kids to what they had to endure.

 

The Good Neighbor Connection

Then they remember that a friend of theirs, maybe a neighbor or a co-worker, seems to love the church they go to. It hasn’t turned their friend into a weirdo, so they ask them about it. It seems OK, so they check out our website. That passes the not-too-geeky litmus test as well.

On the following Sunday, they nervously pack their kids in the car, hoping they’re not underdressed. When they meet their friend in the parking lot and see that they’re dressed casually also, they relax a little and head in to the church building together, still nervous and skeptical, but hopeful too.

  • It’s small, but vibrant
  • Friendly, but not smothering
  • The music is new, but not in your face
  • The preaching is casual, biblical and practical
  • And they can sip on a cup of free coffee while they listen

On the drive home the kids are talking excitedly about the fun they had, the friend from school they played with, and the new friends they made. When the kids can’t stop singing the new songs they learned and want to come back next week, the parents decide to give it another shot.

As time goes on, the adults make friends of their own without having to pretend they’re something they’re not. No one makes an issue of their marital status – or lack of one. They can ask questions, express their doubts and learn at their own pace. No, they don’t all stick around long-term. Just like in any church. But some do. And those that do, really love it.

Months or years pass. They watch several people make commitments to Jesus through water baptism. Then one day they decide to (literally) take the plunge and they sign up to be baptized. Baptism is their public confession of their new found faith in Jesus.

Their spiritual journey towards health and wholeness in Christ continues, including an acknowledgment of past or current sins that have been hurting them, stalling their spiritual growth and sabotaging their relationships. Conviction of sinfulness is a job the Holy Spirit does better than us, so we preach what the bible says about sin and grace and leave the judgments to him. He always comes through.

That’s a picture of some of the people that find (or rediscover) faith in Jesus at our church.

 

Different Churches For Different People

We’re a church for people who need a long, non-threatening amount of time for their spiritual decisions to simmer. Where people who need time to redevelop trust can take all the time they need to do that. We didn’t plan it that way. We’ve just discovered it’s the way God designed us.

We’re not a church where people typically come once for a big event, hear a dynamic message and respond in tears for salvation by the hundreds. I’m thrilled that there are churches where that occurs. We just don’t happen to be one of them.

Many of the people who come to faith in Jesus at our church have been to big evangelistic meetings and/or churches and it puts them off. They feel forced, pushed and manipulated by what they perceive as a pre-manufactured mood. They prefer finding Jesus at their own pace, not at a pre-designated moment choreographed to an emotional musical score.

I’m glad not every church is like ours. But I’m glad there are churches like ours. Our church isn’t for everyone. It’s not even for most people. But some people want a worship experience that feels less rushed and more personal, casual and relational. Those people are often very happy when they find our church.

No, we’re not likely to build a huge church that way. But we have seen a healthy church grow that way. And we plan to keep at it.

We’re the tortoise, not the hare. And we’re not in a race with anyone.

 

So what do you think? In what way is your church unique? Have you been able to reconcile with the task God has given you?

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(Good Neighbors logo from Michael.Boston • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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1 thought on “One Reason Our Church Stays Small: The Slow Spiritual Simmer”

  1. There is an amazing amount of freedom in discovering who you are and just being that. The pressure to perform is off. You are free to minister to people and let Jesus build the church to whatever size He desires.

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