Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bringing In The Sheaves

What inspires a person to go to a church service when he or she normally does not attend? For some, it might be an event, change, or challenge in life that gets the person thinking in a new way, perhaps raising the possibility that seeking God's presence would be a good idea. For others, a personal invitation from a friend, family member, co-worker, or other acquaintance brings them to church. My sense is that when people observe the transforming effect of an active spiritual life on someone's attitudes, priorities and behaviors, it garners attention.

I don't think that a pre-race prayer at a NASCAR track will do the trick.

According to an online article, a Tennessee pastor offered an invocation prior to a race at Nashville Superspeedway. The only content of the prayer described in the article was that the minister, a person named Joe Nelms, thanked God for his "smokin' hot wife," which evidently was a line borrowed from the Will Farrell movie, Talladega Nights.

Nelms explained his rationale this way: "I want to get somebody's attention, so that's been our desire every time we've been up there, to try to make an impact on the fans and give them something they'll remember, and maybe they'll go home on a Friday night or a Saturday night and say, 'Maybe I ought to get up and go to church in the morning.’"

Personally, I'm not a fan of invocations at sporting events, secular building dedications, or similar non-religious activities or places. I just don't find meaning in such prayers. To me, it's phony, and there already is enough of that connected to the faith.

So, I can't imagine anyone who "prayed" along with Joe Nelms was inspired to find a house of worship that weekend.

Churches struggle these days with attracting people. Some try catchy phrases or amusing sentiments on their marquee signs. Others offer spaghetti dinners or similar programs. On rare occasions I have heard of churches handing out money to people who show up on a given Sunday morning.

Worship styles, music, dress codes, theologies, and doctrinal matters all enter into play as congregations wring their hands over how to get more "meat in the seats."

Unfortunately, the magic technique for which so many search and pray does not exist.

It seems to me that the best approach to being the church is to find ways to be faithful to Jesus' call, "Follow me." That includes being persistent and creative in expressing love for God and neighbor.

People who study such things tell us that the current generation of spiritual seekers is looking for something to which they can give their hearts. They are looking for authentic relationships.

I don't believe they are looking for gimmicks.

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