Right Questions and Answers

We Have the Right Answers, but Are We Asking the Right Questions?

In a recent article from the Lewis Center on Church Leadership, Quincy Brown reminds us that the key to problem-solving often lies in asking the right questions. Like many churches, Shalimar is working hard to address the new realities of church life. We ask questions like, "How do we get new and younger people to come to church (and honor our traditions)? How do we address the problem of shrinking congregations? How do we support a large church infrastructure with shrinking dollars? Where do we draw the line in accepting the culture versus being countercultural?"

These are all excellent questions worth considering. Meanwhile, the people in our community are asking different questions. Most are not as concerned with salvation much less with the institutional church. Yet they still have questions we are well prepared to address, such as "What is the meaning of life? Do I have a purpose or any intrinsic value? How can I find joy? Is there any real truth or moral center?"

There is one question they often do NOT ask because they think they know the answer. "Is the church a relevant resource for me as I seek life's meaning?" Sadly, as people observe the way the world works and how many Christians behave; they conclude that the church is out of touch and irrelevant if not evil. In reality, the church is radically benevolent and as relevant as ever. This is because while the world changes (and church practices lag), life's deeper issues remain the same. At its best, the church continues to deal with profound questions that confront every generation and respond to world problems with benevolence like no other institution in history. A good starting point for helping people discover the relevance of church is to invite people to come. We know that 2/3 of the people invited to church by a friend say yes, and the number is half that when invited by the pastor. The Institute for American Church Growth surveyed 10,000 churchgoers and asked, "What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?" The answers may surprise you:
  • 1% visited
  • 2% had a special need
  • 3% just walked in
  • 5% liked the Sunday School
  • 6% liked the minister
  • 3% liked the programs
  • 79% were invited by a friend or relative
This tells me that while we focus on the quality of preaching, worship, and programs (as we should), it is the church member's invitation that makes all the difference. Perhaps you have a new friend or someone you've known for years who has shown no interest in church. Maybe they used to go to church but had a bad experience. Whatever the situation, a heartfelt invitation can make a huge difference in that person's life. Is your church family important to you? Do you believe Christ holds the answers to the most burning questions? Then share it!
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Brian Dale

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