I remember vividly my internal reaction in the first interview. This lady, I thought, really liked the church. Her answers seem to contradict her actions. Why didn’t she return after the first visit?
Well, my final question should get to the bottom of this enigma: What are the reasons you did not return?
So I asked the question again, in the unlikely event she had not heard me the first time.
She did answer this time. Both her response and hesitancy surprised me. She told me she did not return because the worship center was too dark. She could not read her Bible. She could not see other people well.
Indeed, as I interviewed all twenty-four of the guests, this issue and sound problems came up all but three times. Of this small sample, nearly nine out of ten of the first-time guests did not return because they struggled with either the sound or lighting in the worship service.
As I conducted hundreds of consultations over the next three decades, I heard many first-time guests mention the issues of light and sound. And while it’s not a challenge in all churches, the issue was sufficiently pervasive to deem it important.
Sound and lighting.
Color me surprised.
Thom S. Rainer, Becoming a Welcoming Church (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 2018).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on becoming a welcoming church. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.
There’s little doubt that hopelessness can kill. In World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, many prisoners died from a condition doctors nicknamed “give-up-itis.” The prisoners faced grim conditions and had no apparent prospect of freedom, and some of them became demoralized and deeply mired in despair. After a while they turned apathetic. They refused to eat or drink. They spent their time staring blankly into space. Drained of hope, these prisoners gradually wasted away and died.
The human spirit needs hope to survive and thrive. Said Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, “Since my early years as a physician, I learned that taking away hope is, to most people, like pronouncing a death sentence. Their already hard-pressed will to live can become paralyzed, and they may give up and die.”
The Bible set forth the essential nature of hope almost three thousand years ago, when King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Pollster George Gallup observed, “People in many nations appear to be searching with a new intensity for spiritual moorings. One of the key factors prompting this search is a need for hope in these troubled times.”
Lee Strobel, The Case for Hope: Looking Ahead with Confidence and Courage (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).