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Eye opening article on welcoming visitors #398949 09/07/13 08:51 PM
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Paul B Offline OP
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We tend to beat ourselves up regarding welcoming new member and evangelization in general. This article is getting a lot of attention even in mega-churches where we are told everyone is warmly invited.
http://thomrainer.com/2013/08/13/eight-confessions-of-church-spies/

This article summarizes common parish deficiencies in welcoming visitors. When he talks about "finding the worship center" you know he isn't talking about traditional Catholic/Orthodox parishes, but rather those magnificent mega-church facilities that have coffee rooms, activity centers and lounges. However, it is a good read and generally relates to all parishes.

The results were gathered by professional "church spies" who are contracted to discover strengths and weaknesses. Its something that our hierarchs may find worthy of investigating, but only if there is follow-up and the results get reported down to the lay level.

Re: Eye opening article on welcoming visitors [Re: Paul B] #398966 09/08/13 03:17 PM
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Thank you! Here's another one that struck me.

A person I know had a difficult time leaving the homosexual lifestyle because of the sense of hospitality and community it meant leaving behind. When the woman who had identified as lesbian fell in love with a man, she had a difficult time coming to terms with it because she felt rejected by the rest of society and unable to be in community with those whom she thought rejected her and her friends. However, dating a man meant the homosexual community would distance itself from her, leaving her with no place she believed she could belong as she was.

We Catholics have a balanced outlook on sex outside of marriage, but we aren't doing a good job of conveying that message to people like her who, like us, are still knee-deep in figuring out their journey. This article addressed how we can improve our hospitality to include all sinners, including those whose temptations and sins are sexual.


http://scottdodge.blogspot.com/2013/08/gods-kingdom-place-of-unimaginable.html

While I don't believe that it is true that all people who are homosexual, even ones who are actively so, see Jesus differently than I do, I would agree and even go further by saying their hospitality puts almost every church to shame.

There's one other point, which comes towards the end of Dr. Wittmer's third take-away, that bears repeating: "A subtext of the book was how even the ardent homosexuals in her world realized they were 'queer.' The attraction for many, the reason they remained gay, was because that was the one community that loved them. There is a lesson here for us. I know that after reading this book, I am convicted to lead, maintain, and end all of my relationships with love."

I can't imagine how frightening it must be for men and women who are homosexual to decide to approach a church, almost any church.

Please put away your Jump to Conclusions mat and don't misconstrue what I am trying to articulate here. This not a case of trying to turn wrong into right, it is precisely the opposite: acknowledging our own sin and not excusing our own wrong-doing by saying we are acting in the service of truth. Just speaking the rock bottom truth does not in and of itself satisfy the exacting, selfless demands of love. In fact, sometimes even our well-intentioned efforts eviscerate love. This is articulated well in "Jesus Friend of Sinners"- "the world is on its way to you, but it's tripping over me."

It seems to me that the question we have to ask ourselves is, Do we trust that God is at work in peoples' lives, in our lives, in the Church, and in the world, or do we see society held together as the result of our own strenuous efforts? In other words, are we scared to embrace people who are homosexual because we see each and everyone one of them, not as a person beloved of God, for whom Christ died, but as an existential threat to our way of life? I would just encourage us not to mistake what is provisional for what is ultimate and to remind everyone that, at least according to the teaching of Jesus, the Kingdom of God, at least when judged by worldly standards, is a wild and zany place, one might even say a bit upside down. Because I am weak, forgetful, as well as full of pride, I never tire of reminding myself that following Jesus is not an ideological commitment.

As Jesus taught and, moreover, demonstrated, "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18).

Re: Eye opening article on welcoming visitors [Re: Paul B] #398974 09/08/13 10:50 PM
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Paul B Offline OP
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Quoting from the article:

6. Worship through music often needs improvement.
Our spies understand that churches have different worship styles, and they know to contextualize their assessment as much as possible. What we hear from them is that worship through music is often poorly done, regardless of style. Musicians have not practiced, lyrics are difficult to sing, and leaders lack passion.
7. Preaching is often weak.
This area is the most difficult to consider, as it’s often the pulpiteer who invites our team to help the church. Nevertheless, we speak the truth in love. Too many preachers neglect the Bible, misuse it, or quickly depart from it in preaching. Others somehow take the gospel and make it boring. We learn something when our spies report they would not return to that church in the future because of poor preaching.
8. Churches are not always clear in “what to do” in response to worship.
We ask our spies to do their best to think as the unchurched, particularly in trying to follow the direction of worship. Too often for my comfort, our folks reported they would not have known what to do if they wanted to follow Christ, join the church, or deal with a sin issue. I can only wonder if others left the same way.

Re: Eye opening article on welcoming visitors [Re: Paul B] #398982 09/09/13 09:20 AM
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While I will agree we need to be more responsive to the welcoming of visitors. I would like to know to what kind of a"Church" the spies were sent.

If they were to the "MEGA Christian" protestant churches, I can see what they are talking about. Using this article to base how we can be more welcoming is like comparing apples to oranges.

Some "MEGA Christian" protestant churches, worship the concept of worship, where worship of the Divine is lost.

# 6 = Modern "MEGA Christian" protestant churches worship the idea of worship and want to make it an pleasing activity to the human senses(mainly site and sound) to the worshiper to get them to come back.

# 7 = "MEGA Christian" protestant churches are purely pulpit and music based services. Let the "spirit move you", and give them a sermon that brings them back. Not to say we don't need improvement in catholic or orthodox preaching or better homilies. As catholic and or orthodox we believe that the act of worship is more than a catchy tune and a fire and brimstone sermon.

# 8 = See response to #7

Don't remember the number referring better signage. Most traditional eastern catholic and orthodox churches don't have a directions problem because we have a disincentive theology that dictates our religious architecture. "MEGA Christian" protestant churches are behemoth structures with multiple "worship sanctuaries" within a common structure. You don't want to end up in the rock and roll worship band service area when you want the old fashion organ and hymn service.

Last edited by lmier; 09/09/13 09:22 AM.
Re: Eye opening article on welcoming visitors [Re: Paul B] #398993 09/09/13 01:31 PM
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Paul B Offline OP
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Glory to Jesus Christ!

I agree with what you are saying. We Eastern Christians aren't the only church with faults and oversights, which is the point of my post.

We can learn from others' experiences and that the "grass isn't always greener on the other side."

This article reminded me that we have to get a sign to point out which door goes to the restrooms at my parish.


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