I recently heard of a program which goes into youth prisons in order to serve and minister to the young men who are there. The program was going well, in terms of attendance, but the fact that they attracted to the boys to this volunteer gathering with cokes and candy bars was pointed out. As a result of this observation, the snacks were dropped and attendance dropped off drastically. Once that happened, cue the sugar, bring back the snacks and watch the numbers go back up.
What a shame, but beyond that what a microcosm. Isn’t that action/reaction indicative of our overall attitudes towards gathering for spiritual growth and mentoring? Haven’t we all too often requested of our churches sugar-coated invitations in order to fill the seats? Haven’t we insisted on the best possible show, lights, child care, music, etc. before we ever consider going back through that door?
The business of Truth is not a strategic one, per se, but a timely one. That is, when an individual is ready to hear, they will step towards the Promise which holds their deliverance. That step is between them and God, and He doesn’t need the added benefits to make His Love, Hope and Mercy attractive to those who realize how desperately they need those benefits even if meeting in a barn.
The temptation for anyone who has ever been on the inviting side of the ministry equation is to meet that shallow desire with shallow theatrics. When we do something that we are passionate about and believe deeply in, we want people to come and we generally want that for the right reasons. We want Hope and Life to others because we were given Hope and Life. That sincere desire, however, can be tempted with quantifying the validity of our efforts by reacting to the number of people who are responding.
In other words, we look around and try to measure whether it’s a good meeting or not by counting the number of people who attend. If we want more people, we start considering ways to be attractive. The slippery slope of that thinking potentially takes us away from the core of the Hope and Life we had started with in the first place. Then what’s the point?