Mar 29, 2012

What Is a Sanctuary and Where Is It?

"What is a sanctuary and where is it?"

That was the question some of the parents of the Learning Center at the Little Church on the Prairie were asking because their children were performing a musical in the "sanctuary" of the church.

The only problem was these folks didn't know what a sanctuary was.

Maybe they could have googled it. After all, that's what we do now when we don't know what something is.

Try it.

See how it goes. See what you get.

Do an image search of sanctuary. See what you get.

It may be hard for church-going regulars to wrap their heads around this, but to the 90-95% unchurched people in our neighborhood in the Pacific Northwest, this is just a reality.

For folks who grew up in the church, words like sanctuary, the apse, the narthex make perfect sense.

We know what it looks like. We know where to find it.

But to the non-Christian majority in our communities, those words make very little sense.

This is a gross oversimplification, but we can break down our non-Christian majority in the following three ways:

1. The first group of folks are regular church attenders. By regular, I mean these are folks who have been in church sometime in the last four weeks. About 5-10% of our neighbors fit into this category.

2. The second group of folks are those who have been to church. These would be folks who have been to church for weddings, funerals, Christmas services, Easter, or they are folks that used to attend church at one point in their lives but have stopped going to church regularly. This would represent the great majority of the folks in our community.

3. The third group of folks are those WHO DON'T KNOW HOW TO GO TO CHURCH. The thing regular church attenders need to know about these folks is that even if they were to be invited to go to church, they would not know how to go to church. Church is a totally new experience for them.

For instance, if you had a Buddhist friend and they invited you to the temple, would you know how to go to the temple? Would you know where to sit? Would you know if you could participate in everything that everyone else was doing? Would you know what to wear? Would you know what to expect?

Just as most of us would be clueless how to attend a temple or a mosque, there are about a third of the community (about 30% in the Pacific Northwest) who would not know how to go to church.

The ultimate question for our church is, "What are we doing to reach the non-Christian majority with the gospel of Jesus Christ?"

What are the things we are doing to create an environment where the non-Christian majority would feel welcomed and safe to ask questions, have doubts, and genuinely explore Christianity?

Unless we learn how to do that, all of our churches face a future of growing older and continued irrelevancy.

That's a future none of us want.

We have a wonderful opportunity to make the necessary changes now to reach our unchurched neighbors with the good news of Jesus Christ.

Let's do this thing!

1 comment:

teacher_deb said...

Okay I looked up sanctuary... it originally meant a holy place..and now is used to refere to a place of safety.
So let's think about that term "a place of safety".
In this day and age of post modernisim....a sanctuary can be a place where people fee safe. A place they can find someone who "has their back" so to speak. So, as we move to a contemporary worship service in a contemporary place let's remember that God in Jesus is the one thing that makes the place Holy. Our right hearts and attitudes also help to bring Jesus to the place and to the ones who do not know Him yet! In anticipation of what God is doing in Lakewood...I am excitied and say: Praise God!