On Sunday night I took some time to visit a church in Mount Juliet. This is a Baptist church. It has about a 100+ seat auditorium with a big fellowship hall and children Sunday school classrooms. I went to visit them because I wanted to see what is going on in other churches in our community. I got there 20 minutes before the evening service was to start and nobody was anywhere in sight. The parking lot was empty, the lights were off, and I assumed that service had been canceled without me knowing. I decided to stick around, just in case someone popped by. About 10 minutes before service was to start, a few cars trickled in, then another few. I decided to make my way in. When I went inside everyone looked at me with a look of confusion on there face. Someone even asked me, "are you kin to someone here or are you a just a visitor?" I told them I was a visitor and that I was the pastor of a local church who just wanted to fellowship with them for the night. They were so excited that I was there, I would later discover why.
The music we sang were old hymns, but they didn't have a piano player, so we sang along with a tape. We got up and down from the pew nearly 4-5 times as we would sing and sit, then get up to sing again. Several times the guy controlling the tape played the wrong song. The message finally came and it was a message about "laboring for the Lord." It wasn't a bad message, but it was a very scattered message. The entire time I sat in the building, I just wondered if they realized why they weren't reaching people. Their Sunday morning attendance had been 19 that morning, and the interim pastor who was preaching was telling them that God wasn't satisfied with that. However, I highly doubted that any of them were willing to change their patterns or traditions to reach lost people.
I enjoyed being with this small group of people. They were very kind and were very excited that I was there. They invited me to be with them again, and to bring a piano player if I could. I left that night reminded of why there has to be churches willing to make their priority and focus reaching the lost. To reach the lost means to set aside comfortable ways of doing things, it means creating environments in which they feel comfortable to explore faith, without being called out or chastised. I also left thinking about what habits and patterns we have gotten into that may seem find to me and others, but are working against our efforts of reaching people. It was a sad reminder that there are churches dying, and not enough thriving today in our community.