It’s the fall. New things kick off at this time of year. As a matter of fact, September is more inaugural in nature than the New Year as a multitude of events resume, especially if you have kids. School begins. Sports take over our calendars. Pumpkin Spice proliferates the convenience stores. Farmer's markets start their big push during harvest. You get the picture. As far as the church is concerned, the “fall kick-off” provides an opportune time to implement new plans as we move from goal setting to goal actualization. The fall is a critical part of the CCC church calendar.
The question I often ask throughout the summer is, “What needs within the church and the surrounding community deserve attention and effort?” That question creates a hefty list of answers. Praying through that list, several emerge which become a focus for the staff, elders, partners, and the rest of the church. As you read this, I am kindly asking you to prayerfully consider what your part might be as we do His kingdom work together.
I noticed a trend in the messaging among those who volunteer to kick off each Sunday morning service. They introduce themselves, thank everyone for being at church, give a sentence about how much CCC means to them, and often throw something in about how they ‘feel at home’ here, or have ‘a place to belong.’ This is noteworthy.
In an article by Jake Meador, a writer for The Atlantic, he poses a few thoughts aimed at church life and its importance in America. The premise, however, gives an answer to the question as to why so many people are leaving the church. Forty million Americans have stopped attending church in the last 25 years. That represents 12% of the population. And that’s sad, and a little scary at the same time. Meador says that participation in church life correlates with better health outcomes, longer life, increased generosity, and more stability in families. In a nation replete with mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse, and suicide, the need for such an organization as church is obvious.
All of us know people who once attended church on a regular basis, but for various reasons have fallen out of that habit. More than likely it was a gradual process. Most people don’t wake up and suddenly become inspired to drop church out of their lives. More than likely, other things fill the calendar, or better yet, so many things have filled the calendar the six days prior, that Sunday becomes a ‘rest and do nothing’ time. Our lives are often stretched like rubber bands and church attendance feels like another ‘thing’ on an already bursting list. We all strive for peace somewhere.
The problem is that life in America isn’t the best at promoting concern, mutual care, or community. Simply put, common life together often takes second place to individuality, and personal accomplishments. Professional and financial success and the professional prospects of one’s children are the markers we use to determine whether we are winning or losing this game of life. That’s a shame.
But here is the question: Is the obstacle in front of us actually an opportunity? I think, overwhelmingly, yes. The church can be an antidote to this. Meadow asked a question, “What is more needed in our time than a community marked by sincere love, sharing what they have from each according to their ability and to each according to their need, eating together regularly, generously serving neighbors, and living quiet lives of virtue and prayer?” A well-thought question.
I talk often about ‘invite culture.’ Inviting those in the community outside of CCC to visit CCC should be evident in everything we do and offer. Inviting is just what we do at CCC. That’s ‘invite culture.’ What is very encouraging though, based on the adverse effects of our fast-paced, high-tech culture, CCC offers far more to people than they think. It doesn’t merely offer ‘religion.’ The Church has embedded in its very purpose the purpose of Jesus.
So, what are we inviting people to when we invite them to CCC?
Life is hard. People are complex. We are whole people, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual beings. We experience joys and we get ourselves into messes. Mental and emotional health, as well as family health, are big issues. CCC can help.
God is real. He is the ‘something more’ that everyone deep down yearns to fill the emptiness. Jesus saves. He heals broken people. The Holy Spirit offers power and peace in the midst of chaos and pain.
We need each other. We matter. God never meant for us to do this alone. We were made to serve each other, to help one another, to walk with each other through good and bad. We do all this church stuff together.
Love it. Brings so much good. Here’s three takeaway points as you ponder this new season brought on with September:
1. The lobby takes on more importance than we realize. While worshipping together and having a togetherness as we praise God and hear from His Word will always be the bread and butter of what we do, it makes a world of difference to a new person when someone says, “Hello.”
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
2. It’s a bigger deal than we think for someone to be involved midweek. In our smaller gatherings throughout the week, whether community groups or men’s/women’s ministry, Celebrate Recovery, student ministries, Porch, etc., it gives a chance to have more conversations, pray for one another, and build one of the most important parts of who we are— relationships.
Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
3. Being invited involves so much more than having a seat on Sunday morning. So next time you invite someone, think of all the good you are inviting them to. They need it.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.