Okay, now that you’ve decided to read this, please don’t stop. I have noticed that when I put a somewhat provocative title on my posts, more people read and share them. I hope that you will read and share every day, but I understand that you are busy. But please share this one, because the truth that we cannot handle is simply this: we don’t want to invite people to church any more.
There. I said it. Now don’t get me wrong. When we have a special service at Southside, people invite their family members, friends, neighbors, total strangers, even totally strange people to attend. I think we have had pets invited to some of our events, but I digress. The truth of the matter is that we love to invite people to our special services. Our sanctuary seats close to 1,000 people, and when we have our Celebrate America program on the Sunday before the 4th of July, we pack the place. Yes, I know it is a fantastic program, and that’s my point. We invite anyone and everyone to attend. Just this past Sunday, our choir did a Gaither Homecoming type worship, and while we did not pact the house, we had a much larger crowd than usual. And guess what! We didn’t advertise it in any special way. People simply invited people to attend. Why? Because it was a “special” service.
Here’s the kicker. Every worship service is special! Let me type that again so that you don’t have to back up and read. Every worship service is special! Now, some of you are about to click off this blog and go back to viewing your Facebook page or your Twitter timeline. Don’t! Some of you are ready to argue because you’ve been to worship services all your life, and if you are in the typical Baptist church, you know that every worship service is just about like every other worship service. In fact, you could go to most Baptist churches, close your eyes, and you would still know when to stand up and sit down, when to sing and when to pray, when to greet your neighbors and when to take your nap. Notice I didn’t say listen to the preacher because that’s when most Baptists take their nap. But I still think that even with our typical order of service, every worship service is special. Do you want to know why I believe that? Well, I’m glad you asked. I believe that every worship service is special not because of the music, not because of the preaching, but because of the audience. Notice that I did not say the congregation. I said audience. You are not the audience. Yes, you are there to hear and to receive, but worship is not about you. Worship is not even necessarily for you even though we all benefit from the act of worship. Worship is about and for our Heavenly Father. That’s what makes it special. The God of the Universe who created everything comes into our worship services to receive our offerings of praise. That makes it very special. I cannot help but believe that if we had a celebrity coming to our worship services that the place would be packed. Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, even Donald Trump (as scary as that might be) would draw a crowd. Yet none compare to the God of the Universe.
Still, we don’t invite people to church – maybe it’s because we are not experiencing the God of the Universe’s presence in our worship services. I can guarantee you at Southside that it isn’t because He doesn’t show up. He’s here. I know that because He has promised to be here. Most likely it’s because as worshippers we are not expecting to experience Him. We are not prepared to experience Him. Or even worse, we don’t want to experience Him. You see, it doesn’t matter what kind of music is used or what version of the Bible the preacher speaks from or even if the message is dynamic. God is there. You can experience Him if you want to. And so can every person that you choose to invite to participate. And my friends, that is a special service. So, who are you going to invite to church this Sunday?