By Patrick Bradley: If you haven’t heard this response yet in your church planting journey, you will: “Call me back when you’re a real church.” Have a plan to address this before you’re hit with it.
Oh, they never say it exactly like that. But when you invite someone to get involved in the church plant before you have weekly Sunday morning gatherings, it’ll come up. Usually, it sounds more like:
Sounds cool! Let me know when you’ve launched and we’ll check you out
You don’t have a building yet? Keep me posted
I’ll definitely be there for the grand opening!
If you’re unprepared, it can be disheartening. You see the beauty and adventure going on now and want people to share it.
But instead of letting their response deflate you, accept it as the challenge that it is.
What’s Really Going On
Encoded in this common response are all kinds of potential messages:
You Don’t Fit in my Box
Somewhere in our collective American psyche, there’s a baseline understanding that church happens on Sunday mornings. Your church plant is not at that stage yet, so some people won’t know what to do with you. You might even get asked if you’re some kind of cult.
My Theology of Church is Off
Some people have only experienced a consumerist, non-participatory, only-show-up-on-Sunday-morning kind of church. That may be their fault or another church’s. Regardless, they don’t know what being part of the church is like Monday through Saturday. Or they’re not interested.
I’m Not Ready to Commit
They might be begging you off because they’re not ready to commit to getting involved in a brand new church. They may or may not have any idea what it even entails. But probably they’re politely telling you no.
How to Prepare
Here are some pointers on how to be ready for the “when you’re a real church” response to an invitation:
Let go of any need to control their response
Pray through how God would have you lovingly challenge their assumptions; this may be their God-appointment to grow their ecclesiology
Recognize that this response overwhelmingly comes from already-churched people
Remember that they are people, not grist for your organizational machine
Be clear about what exactly you’re inviting them to (that isn’t Sunday morning worship)
I don’t have to convince you that church is so much more than an event on Sunday morning. But you may have to convince them.