You Do Matter!
Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep, but when 1 went missing, he went in search of the 1 lost sheep, until he found it and joyfully returned home with it. But what if 100 were missing? Imagine the challenge of trying to round up 100 missing sheep!
That’s where we find ourselves today. After over a year of a pandemic, lockdowns, and staying at home, about 100 of our flock have not come back (our difference in attendance from before COVID is about 70, but with the new people who have come, the actual number of missing people is at least 100). Will they ever return?
Thom Rainer, a Christian researcher and writer, wrote an article last August called Five Types of Church Members Who Will Not Return after the Quarantine (worth Googling). These included those who were already attending less often before COVID and are now not at all; those who attended worship but never connected with a class, group, or ministry; those who see church as just another activity in addition to their weekend outings and involvement in sports; and those who were constant critics before and now their complaints are excuses not to attend. I would add those whose health declined during the pandemic, those who are still afraid to return, those who have simply gotten out of the habit of attending in person, and those who like the convenience of watching services at home in their PJ’s.
What was surprising was the bitterness in the comments that followed Rainer’s article. Many said that their church never reached out to them, or didn’t take the pandemic seriously, or took it too seriously, or became too involved in political or social issues, or not enough. Many had their reasons for saying “I’m never going back!” That’s sad. Maybe some had bad experiences at their church, but to cut yourself off from the Body of Christ, for which He died, and for which He will return to take home, is a serious thing.
Late last summer, a Barna survey asked churchgoers what they missed most about worshiping in person, and the top answers were taking communion (24%), socializing with others before and after the service (23%), and listening to a live sermon (21%). If you haven’t worshiped with us in person in awhile, what have you missed the most?
If you’re one of those missing from our flock, I want to reassure you: You do matter! Not just as a number, not just as a giver, for God will provide, but YOU matter! That’s why we prepare services every week and provide them in person or live on Facebook on Sunday mornings, or through our website, or through public access broadcast Saturdays at noon – for those who cannot attend. That’s why we invested tens of thousands of dollars in shading and equipment for outdoor services for nearly a year, and took safety precautions for volunteers & worshipers and invested in touchless faucets and hand sanitizers and foggers to sanitize seats, and provided offering buckets and self-serve communion cups, because we care about our flock and wanted to keep our church safe and going. That’s why we had Children’s Moments during our outdoor services, and called over 100 people every month through our Stay Connected ministry to try to keep in touch and pray with our missing people. Our church is not perfect, but we do care about each other, so if we have missed you somehow, then let’s re-connect, for it’s time to come back! The Bible says:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Because you do matter, if you can come I hope to see you Sunday,
Mike Openshaw, Senior Minister