How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? -Romans 10:14, NASB
Storytime at the library a couple years ago: a way to get to know other mothers, get the children out of the house, and let the older children browse for some reading material. The young mother sitting next to me casually mentioned during our small talk, “We’ve been looking for a church, but haven’t been able to settle with one.” “What are you looking for?” I responded. “Well, my husband likes a traditional liturgical service and we want something for the kids.” My mind flashed to our small church: meeting in an upper room, simple service, no bulletin, no instrumentation except for MIDI files, not even a nursery. I was at that time the only female member of our fellowship. Do I tell her about our church even though it had none of what she wanted? Unable to answer her, I smiled and let the conversation shift. An opportunity slipped away.
Recently, I was browsing the area Facebook yard sale page when I noticed a post by a young woman asking about churches in the area. Several commenters mentioned the local contemporary, seeker-sensitive church. She probably wouldn’t be interested in our church, I thought. While our church has grown some, we still meet in an upper room with no nursery and no rockin’ band, guitar, or piano. Our financial resources are extremely limited. Would it even be worth it to mention our church?
Does anything embarrass you about your church? Do you let your concerns about appearances get in the way of whether you invite others to church? It can be easy for those in small churches to become self-conscious about its lack of resources and crowds. The singing might be awkward at times. We don’t have a lot of members in attendance at our church. There is no xyz program. Our preacher preaches longer than 40 minutes. We don’t have certain demographics. If they come, people might not come back!
If this is ever the case with you, I have to ask: why do YOU go to the church you do? Does it preach the Gospel faithfully? Do we believe that it is God who saves souls, and not expensive sound systems and lighting? So why are we sometimes reluctant to share about our church with others?
I have concluded the answer is pride. A rejection of the church can seem like a rejection of you. Especially among the leaders of the church, whose families are committed to and invested in the work, it is easy to view the success or lack thereof as dependent on the personalities or actions of the leadership. I have heard a godly pastor’s wife mention the temptation to over-analyze when visitors come: “If they don’t come back it’s probably due to me not talking to them enough. Or maybe I talked too much?” This from someone whose husband is published and respected throughout the Reformed community!
When these moments of embarrassment about our churches arise, we forget that it is not the pastor, nor the pastor’s wife, nor the congregants, nor even ourselves that keep someone in a church. It is God and His Word working in the hearts of those who hear His Word faithfully preached. Our duty is to obey His commands. When we treat others as numbers, no matter what story is behind the number, they’re still a number at the end of the day. When we look for ways to love and serve others, we put the focus off of ourselves and on treating others as the people they are. Paul Washer in one of his messages at the 2015 G3 Conference said churches are built through the preaching of the Word and prayer. If we believe this to be the case, then any lack on our part materially should be no hindrance to God. Let us trust God to change hearts regardless of circumstances.
As for that Facebook post, I did put our church down as an option. I don’t know what the outcome will be. The person may never show up, but unlike that day in the library, I can know that I demonstrated love to Christ by not being embarrassed of his body, the church.