As the first service of the day slowly creeps nearer I find my self thinking about the various responses to Sunday that I have encountered thus far in my life. Here, for brevity's sake are four (bet you know more):
They've jumped out of bed and can't wait for church. This is one of the high points of the week for them - a chance to share with their church family and break bread, sing. listen (and hopefully learn, and pray!
You know the sort, they're always excited about church and God and stuff.
One of the people in a church a few churches back one pointed at one of these and said, in a non-approving tone, 'That's N, he's one of those enthusiastic Christians!'
A few years back, at one of the early communion services, someone said to me,'I wouldn't have come this morning but I had to to because I was handing out the hymnbooks!'
These are the people for whom church has become a commitment that has to be met and to be honest, I think that we (me and them) both wonder why they come at times. They have something to do and so they come and do it (for which I am truly grateful, for many who have things to do don't) but they have lost the joy of living with God and generally just work with Him.
A discussion with a church member from another fellowship led me into the knowledge that 'They've always come to the church,' and so they continue to come. They were brought by their parents (who were brought by their parents and so on) and it's what they do on a Sunday.
As I discussed Christian things with them I became aware that they might have some miles on the clock in terms of church attendance but that they'd rarely brought their brains and emotions with them (essential if 'church' is to be of any value I fear) and the sermon was the place for drifting off and planning lunch or sorting out the handbag and the like.
The Pressed Men
Doing a service somewhere recently I met a couple who obviously didn't want to be in the church building. Throughout the service the mumbled the responses, barely sang the songs and couldn't wait to flee.
So (of course) I tackled them at the door and asked a few questions and it turned out that:
They 'had' to be there to have their banns read and having taken the medicine that is church were keen to leg it before they were collared by some one (so that worked well, didn't it?). Going to church was the price that had to be paid for the use of the their building on their 'big day'.
Another similar looking couple (at another service) were there because they 'had' to come because they were having their child baptised. Again there was no engagement from them - they were doing what had to be done.
The Consumer (a late addition)
I've been asked to include this by others as so can but oblige. Here we have those who arrive, take in a service and then leave with no mark made either by them or on them. The Sunday slot is something that serves to fill a need and nothing more. The 'consumer' is perhaps the most difficult to deal with because they come (and often have always done so) and yet are the people that can be least counted upon to make an impact or hold a belief).
One of the hallmarks of the consumer society is that they are seeking to be 'blessed' and are very sure about what they don't want from church, being challenged appearing to be the biggest turn off - 'ask what your church (and God) can do for you, not what you can do for it (and Him)' is their mantra.
The question for me as a dogcollar is what I can do to make those who come through the doors of our church (the word 'our' indicating membership not possession) engaged and the experience meaningful and enjoyable?
How do I turn habit into enthusiasm and make the usual Sunday experience into something unusual and extraordinary?
How do I rekindle the passion that has turned to duty and set people on fire for God?
How do I make an honest, welcoming and disciple-making environment for those pressed men?
How do I turn consumers into converts?
You know what? I'm not sure - so I'll go next door and have a try with the early communion.
Catch you later - Christ is risen! Hallelujah!