I spent this weekend worshiping with Cypress Grove Assembly of God in Grandridge, Florida. What a fun morning as their students had just returned from youth camp, and they were really engaged in celebrating God. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in a room when a dozen or so teenagers are down front, and on their feet before the first note of the opening chorus. In a room of eighty worshipers, you can’t help but feel that energy.
As I flew home last night, I thought a bit about the temperature in many of today’s churches. Who’s excited to be there? Who can’t wait to get to church and engage friends and the God who draws them together?
You see, I’ve been in services where some well-meaning leader says something like, “Wouldn’t you rather be here than in the finest hospital in the city?” Honestly, I’d rather be anywhere but in the hospital most days so I’m not sure a hearty amen makes that great of a statement.
A few years back, I stepped on an early morning flight in hopes of sleeping a bit more before the day really began. Instead, my seat mate regaled me with his excitement about the church he was attending. I hadn’t revealed my ministry occupation or even identified myself as a Christian, but he couldn’t help himself because of the extraordinary life change he was experiencing. When I asked him the name of his church, I wasn’t surprised to hear he was attending one of the fastest growing churches in our community. No wonder–with people this excited.
People are the church and people grow the church. Some saints have the idea that getting the right pastor or choosing the most attractive music will help their church become a big one. Now, pastors’ communicating abilities and quality musicians are important, and it can be hard for a church to overcome deficiencies in these areas, but a church grows because it’s people can’t help but overflow with enthusiasm on days like Tuesday.
As a resident of Southwest Missouri, I have frequent opportunities to attend popular shows in Branson, Missouri. Many of these shows have an average age demographic similar to a lot of churches. That’s right! The crowd is a bit older than what you’d find at many concerts or even ballgames. And where do these older friends want to sit at these shows? The same place their younger friends want to sit at concerts and ballgames–as close to the front as their wallets will allow!
But where do some of these same people want to sit in their churches on Sunday? You know ’cause you’ve seen your church’s front rows just wishing for a few occupants. And the best seats in the house are free! Why aren’t we as excited about our church and the chance to worship God together as we can get in less eternal celebrations?
If you want your church to grow, start rediscovering the joy of salvation and the dozens of reasons we have to celebrate God’s goodness. Be grateful for the people God has placed in your life, and take a few moments to realize that you’ve been given Good News from your Creator. Don’t let the familiarity of your local church spoil the enthusiasm you can feel as you gather.
Enthusiasm is contagious. When you’re excited about your church, others will get excited too. And those outside your walls will be a lot more curious about what’s inside.