I remember hearing the story of the priest who drove an old pick up truck with a new washer and dryer in the back into the inner city of Atlanta. He was taking the new appliances to a family who had recently lost everything in a fire. As his helpers unloaded the items, the priest jumped up into the truck bed, hooked up a karaoke machine with a microphone and started preaching God’s Word. Before long, he was singing, clapping his hands and all with a big smile on his face. And then, an amazing thing started to happen. People in the apartment complex came out on their balconies and joined in. Little children surrounded the truck and started dancing. And people started shouting out, “Where is your church, father? Where is your church?” Probably most of these wonderful people were not Catholic. Some may not have been to a church in years or ever. But, when confronted with Christ’s faith in action and God’s joy, grace and love, denominations and beliefs faded away and the crowd only wanted to know one thing: where is your church so I can go there? What an awesome story.
When I first moved to Georgia 33 years ago, not a week went by where someone didn’t come to my door to witness to me or invite me to their church. I can’t remember anyone coming in the last 5-7 years. When I was growing up, no matter what it was that you were interested in: sports, theatre, music, quilting, teaching, cooking, etc. you could find a ministry or program at your church doing it. And if not, you could start one. There were youth dances, movie nights, festivals, concerts, and guest speakers. And of course, a host of community service projects whether it be food banks, visiting the sick, mowing someone’s lawn, painting a house, working the local thrift shop. Church wasn’t a Sunday thing, it was the THING. Now, I’ve heard from several Catholic priests and Protestant ministers that it is hard to get people just to come to Sunday service or weekly Bible study.
To be fair, many churches are making amazing impacts in their communities. But as Christian numbers decline across the United States, I began to wonder was it because the church has lost the fire of the Holy Spirit? Are we just not that enthusiastic about our faith anymore? Or are our churches just not the welcoming places that they used to be? How we run out of ideas on how best to spread the Gospel? Many people who say they are Christian, don’t go to a church. Why not?
A teacher asked one of my children where our family goes to church. When he told her, the teacher replied that she had never heard of that church. Our church has been in the community for over 60 years. Were we making so little an impact that nobody even knew who we were? And how many other churches are doing the exact same thing? Going thru the motions and just hanging on? It made me think of that priest in the back of his pickup truck, preaching the Gospel with an old karaoke machine and a microphone while the people shouted, “where is your church?”