When my husband and I walked through the doors of Eagle Brook Church back in 1998, we hadn’t been to church in many years. We came with low expectations based on our church backgrounds. But from the moment we arrived, we knew this place was different.
We were greeted by genuine people, they used language that made us feel both welcome and comfortable. We heard music that was relevant and well done and heard a message from God’s word that spoke to us and applied to our lives. After the service, the Children’s Pastor came up to us and introduced herself. Our 3 little kids, ages 1, 2 and 4 years old, probably caught her eye as they spilled donut sprinkles all over the carpet.
Bottom line, the staff and volunteers created an experience that was irresistible.
They were ready for us. They created an experience that drew us in, and all of our lives were changed forever in the days and years going forward. Their front door, the weekend experience, was welcoming, warm and just what this tired, spiritually disconnected family needed.
However, if I take a step back, what they really did right, is what I believe is the biggest barrier to the front doors of our churches. They raised up a congregation that cared about people far from God.
If I back up our story a few months, the real reason we walked through those doors in 1998 was because I had a co-worker that became my friend first. We shared many lunches together, getting to know one another. She and her husband offered to babysit our firstborn when my husband and I were so tired and needed a night out. She empathized when we had an unexpected third child, knowing our young marriage was already struggling. She knew me. So, when she invited me to her church I was open. And, although I told her all the reasons why we weren’t interested, she would just gently respond explaining we should just give it a try and that she and her husband would go with us. We felt so loved and supported by her and her husband that eventually we said ‘yes’ to the invitation and the rest is history.
“One of our attenders had been inviting a friend to church for years and he always said ‘no.’ Finally, after another invitation, his friend said to him. ‘You keep inviting me to your church. You never invite me to your house.’”
All these years I thought our church had it right because our church’s “front door” was so welcoming, real and ready. But, we never would have agreed to go if our friends weren’t so welcoming, real and ready.
The church had cast a vision to its attenders that being the hands and feet of Jesus to those around them was the first step.
The church does need to be ready when people do decide to come. Our churches need to pay attention to the guest experience, what we say, the music we play, the messages we teach. But more importantly, we need to raise up the people in our church to care about people far from God. We need to challenge them to get outside their Christian bubbles to notice and care about the people God has placed around them. Each of us needs to do our part, and the church needs to do their part, if we are to reach our friends and family members for Jesus.