There are two ways in which people get connected to a church. If your first response to that question is “it must be John Wesley’s doctrine of the Quadrilateral” (4 Avenues to determining truth--Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience) OR Wesley’s threefold understanding of Grace (Prevenient Grace, Justifying Grace and Sanctifying Grace) you lose your turn and have to return to “GO”.
As unique as these ideas are for the people called Methodists, the first reason a person gets connected to a church is far simpler to grasp: somebody invited them. Every church wants to think of itself as a “warm and welcoming” church. In my experience, what that tends to mean is this: “we’ll be nice to you if you find your own way to our doors”. And even THAT isn’t always the case. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
I have challenged us before and the challenge stands -- have you taken on, in an intentional way, the discipling of just one person in the last year? Some of you have, I know, because we have had several join our congregation as a direct result of your efforts and I want to offer you my deepest thanks. Discipling just one person/family in a year doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it? Maybe not, but if we had all taken that challenge seriously, the church would have effectively doubled in size. While we did grow a little last year, I think it’s clear we didn’t double.
So please allow me to reignite the challenge. Church growth is not rocket science. We’ve known all along that the church grows when Jesus’ disciples take the discipling of others seriously. Start now.
The other way people choose to connect to any given church is whether or not the warmth they feel is genuine. My dear friend Mike McCroskey called me the day he heard I had been appointed to Belle Meade. Mike knew enough about my history to know that I tended to include “The Passing Of The Peace” in congregations I had served. Mike was a “purist” when it came to worship and he thought the Passing of the Peace was more of an interruption of worship than an aid to it. So he called me and pleaded, “For God’s sake, don’t make us Pass The Peace!”
I happen to agree with him. I am fully aware that more times than not the Passing of the Peace was less about Jesus and more about “Did you see the Preds game last night?” So why would I encourage a church to include it? Precisely this: I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard throughout the years tell me that they did or did not connect with a church because they came to worship and NOBODY spoke to them. Passing of the Peace may very well be an interruption of a worship service, but if that was the only way to insure that everyone in the room was spoken to, it seemed to me a price worth paying (and BTW we DO Pass The Peace every Sunday in our 8:30 worship service and the roof has not yet caved in).
The Visitor Outreach Team developed what we call “Coffee Hour” every third Sunday for regular visitors to sit with us and learn about the church and ask us questions. It happened again at the last coffee hour. Two couples both told us that when they had visited, multiple people welcomed them and spoke to them. You can’t know how grateful it makes us to hear how our congregation is perceived.
I am not thinking of slipping in the Passing of the Peace next week in the 10:30 AM worship. But please continue to be attentive to those around you. Make sure you greet each other, even if you stumble over the embarrassing truth that the person you are welcoming has been a member here for thirty years.
We have a terrific church! There is so much to love about being here. THAT’s our story and we’re sticking to it. The only unknown is how will you share that story?
PEACE (That I Pass To YOU)