I meet so many people who bemoan the fact that they are a 'welcoming church' and yet they have no one to welcome! 'What's the point of being ready for newcomers when they never come?' they cry. 'It's just not fair!' (they add petulantly :-) )!
The problem is that you can have the food laid on and everything nice of those nice people to enjoy but if they don't know you're open for business and ready, willing, able and desirous of visitors, how will they know to come?
And why should they? After all, most of the people outside our doors don't have a scooby what we're doing and less idea of any reason why they should want to get into the company of a bunch of 'Bible-Bashers' (as one of my funeral customers so kindly put it this week!).
Thus chastened they, the church members, decide that they will scuttle off out and take me at my word and invite people to their church so the people who were sitting inside the doors waiting to welcome them could be fulfilled. So they went door to door and stuck leaflets through the letterboxes telling the inhabitants that they, the church, were really keen to be their friends and laid out the many benefits like eternal life, friendship, love, forgiveness, eternal life, acceptance and eternal life (have I mentioned that?).
But still no one came. The residents knew they (the church) were there at the end of their road but they didn't really know who went into the building (and it could be a trap, couldn't it?) and so they decided to give it a miss!
Then the people who were waiting to welcome the people and the people who'd gone out to invite the people to come so that the people who were waiting to welcome them could welcome them all came and had a moan because there they were: Waiting to welcome and having invited and no one had responded. 'What are we supposed to do now then (clever clogs*)?' they asked.
So I told them that they needed to get the members of the church to get to know the people in their streets; the next door neighbours and the grumpy old goat with the Mondeo who played Saga radio far too loud when he set off for work in the mornings (of course, he's blinking deaf so what you you expect?). 'Get out there and make friends and then, when you have, invite them to something at the church and the people who are waiting to welcome people will have people to welcome and they will be happy!'
So, reluctantly (after I persuaded them that they wouldn't have to 'share their faith') they did that and eventually they invited some of their new friends to come to church with them and, amazingly, come to church they did! And the welcomers welcomed and the church grew a little and yet still the church (for church is a cognisant entity like nature isn't it - clever bricks that make up a building we meet in) was not happy - so again they came to me and said:
'Why have we only had a few of the people in our streets come? We made got to know them and we made friends. gave lifts, moved lawns, mended cars and even did their shopping. Why haven't they ALL come?'
So I asked them what they thought their building looked like to people outside of it. I asked them how hard it was to get to the place - was there a car park? Did the buses run past the door? Was it a safe and friendly area? What was it like where they lived and was that a problem?
So they looked at the places the people they were asking to come lived in and realised that they were stuck in areas where Church (that's the whole of the Christian body) were never really seen and then they realised that there were so many needs and so much going on that the people were stuck in their own environment and so ....
They decided to 'do' church in the community rooms on the estate where they lived and set up youth projects and arrange stuff for the young mums (especially the single-parents) who were trapped in their homes and put on tea and chat sessions for the older folk (I always said I'd never use the 'f' word!!!) - and still no one came to their building in town.
They didn't need to!
Church was being lived out where the people were :-)
Just like it was supposed to be all along!
*of course they were far too polite to actually call me that, but I know what they were thinking!