By Brad Bloom, Publisher
Allow me to play off of a recent campaign that was highly successful: Make ‘The Church” Great Again! Read to the end to follow what I’m saying.
Every Easter season, church leaders and teams just about wet their pants with the notion that this is the really big one. Easter is to Christianity as Black Friday is to the retail industry. Let’s get ‘em in here while the getting is good.
I have some observations to share. Characterize me as critical if you want, but this is accurate.
Graphics like the 8 out of 10 people would come to Easter Service if you’d just invite them are built on research – perhaps to guilt you into daring to ask, “Would you like to come to church with me? If you’re not too busy, I think you might like it. It won’t take long.”
But the controllers of the church (deacons or bureaucrats – elders or Pharisees?) have created so much big government that you, the little guy, can do nothing but fit nicely into a system that barely resembles the New Testament Church of Easter Past.
Practically every church I visit that has a fitness ministry has barriers in place to keep people OUT and discourage members from bringing people IN.
For some it is their website and walls that have their rules and regulations clearly visible in bold – you must agree to this before you can proceed. We’re going to tell you what we deem as acceptable and let you wonder who we think belongs in a "basket of deplorables".
Church leaders often shift the attention away from ministry opportunity and growth by focusing on the need to manage risks. Does your church not carry insurance? That’s a rhetorical question! Unless your fitness programming includes people being shot out of a cannon or balancing on a tight rope stretched from the steeple, you’re covered already or can get additional coverage for not much more.
I’ve been to church fitness facilities where every member upon entering has to exchange their membership card at the front desk for a key as if to unlock the very doors to paradise I guess. What prompts church leaders to come up with such a convoluted approach to access – or better said, the limit to access. Try it, you can walk into a hospital directly to a bedridden patient with less restriction than you can get into many church gyms. That is sad on both counts.
Maybe it is no big deal anyway because going to many church fitness facilities is no different than going to any other gym that is much easier to enter. You can do Zumba here or Zumba there, yoga here or yoga there, basketball here or basketball there, weight room here or weight room there. Come to think of it THERE may be better --- Better hours, more energy, less judgment, and more people, lots of people that actually get into it!
Many churches have pastors that pooh-pooh their fitness ministry. If they workout, they do it somewhere else. Most are too fat and too disinterested. Conviction? No. Arrogance and laziness – Yes!
And so the message is sent: Umm, OK come if you must. Try to find our fitness ministry if you can but keep others away – far away. Instead we'd really rather you dress up, be cool, smell nice, act like everything is awesome and bring lots of money to our Easter Sunday service.
MAKE YOUR CHURCH GREAT AGAIN
It’s time to make your church great again.
At Jesus’ death, the veil in the Temple was torn from top to bottom signifying that all people have direct access to God through Jesus.
The Bible says to make your election sure. Take ownership of your faith and fitness.
YOU can go tell others and show others: Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God.
This isn’t: 8 out of 10 people will agree to a once-a-year consensual religious fornication.
This is: you have an 80% likelihood of someone saying yes to your personal invitation to workout, eat well, get to know you and get to know Jesus.
Do that consistently year-round and let your church and gym know you expect their enthusiastic support --- as if it were Easter.
THE INVITATION - 3 EASY STEPS
1. Open your eyes - Your spiritual eyes that is. Look and you'll see people all around you that need joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, compassion, encouragement and more in their life.
2. Open your mouth - Invite them to do a fit activity with you. It could be as simple as taking a walk, enjoying the outside fresh air and talking. Invite someone to hit the weight room with you, do a group exercise class, join you for a race, help them plant some potted vegetables, join you for dinner --- It is all fun and likely out of the ordinary and refreshing for them.
3. Keep it up. Don't be a flash in the pan. Demonstrate the sincerity of commitment. You're going to keep exercising regularly right?! So, be patient and work at building lasting friendships. Be attentive to the (often missed) God-designed opportunities to be the life of Christ to them.