I have heard two stories in the past week that I thought were worth sharing. Both of them relate to the same topic, but come at it from very different angles. In my reflection, the telling of these stories reminds me of something of utmost importance.
Story 1: a family comes into our fellowship, having seen our church's sign and website. After some poking around, they figure us to be okay people and check us out. For a while, all seems to be well but then they up and disappear. When contacted, they let us know that no one was friendly to them and they didn’t connect with the people. They loved what God was doing but didn’t find relationships.
Story 2: a family comes into our fellowship, finding us through our website. They listened to a couple of sermons, found out more information on the church, and visited one Sunday. To this day, they’re still coming, have joined a Sunday School class, and seem to be plugged in. When asked why they are here, they talk about how friendly the church is and how much they love what God is doing and the great people they have met here.
One family comes and has no relational connection. The second comes and gets knit in easily. I have no idea about the particulars: where they sat, who they encountered, if they smiled at anyone, or anything else.
What I do know is this: the relationships are what keep people connected. A church may have the greatest music and greatest preaching and greatest kids’ ministries, but if there is not a relational connection, there will be no staying power. And more than that, it’s not church! The church IS the network of relationships, centered on Jesus and rooted in His Kingdom. It’s not a Sunday morning event. It’s a web of Jesus-saturated, Bible-stained lives.
So here’s where it comes down for you and me. What if we continually and intentionally looked around our lives, our neighborhoods, and yes, our Sunday morning experience to see those who might not be connected?
As a church, we have worked hard on making sure people feel welcomed when they come. Our greeters and others say hello to them at the door. Hopefully someone around them gets them a greeter bag. But it takes more than that. It takes a relational investment, an invitation to lunch, an email or quick phone call during the week, an invitation to Sunday School, and many more things.
Inside the church building and outside of it, people need to know that real, authentic, and genuine life in Christ is available. And our relational efforts are our proof.
But that's just me thinking thoughts...