How strange is the Table and how do we invite people to sit with us?

Our church had a Hindu family visit with us this past week.  They found us by accident and were not there to join us because we worship a Triune God.  That God brought them to us is a bit of a mystery, but we are glad for the opportunity to introduce them to Jesus.

What struck me about this family’s presence is that what we do as a church is fairly unusual for anyone not familiar with Christian culture.  From the perspective of someone who does not know how churches function, what does a typical service look like?  I imagine that our lecture style seating/assembly is odd, along with when we sing.  Why do we sing?  Who do we sing to?  Do they think that we might be singing to our worship leader rather than God?

What would someone make of the preaching?  Referring to the Bible might be commonplace for Christians, but how might a Hindu or Buddhist understand this?  Does their practice of religion resemble that of a Christian so that they would have an idea of what is going on?

When we minister to people who are not Christians and have no background for understanding our “traditions” and/or “rituals” how do we help them process what we do?

If you have faced a similar situation, how did you handle it?  What can we do to encourage our visitors to meet Christ as opposed to be turned off because we are insensitive or have created an artificial barrier (through our particular practice of faith) to Jesus that He never intended?


5 responses to “How strange is the Table and how do we invite people to sit with us?

  1. Wow, I’ve never thought about some of these things before, even though I thought I had thought through how other cultures may experience our worship service. The thought that they might think we were singing to the worship leader never crossed my mind. Makes me want to be very clear about what we do and why.

    Found your blog via your contribution to Outreach Magazine. I loved what you said about letting the church see my struggles. We are to be part of the church we pastor, not some outsider looking in. We need to be an example within them, among them. How can I expect them to share their hurts and joys with each other and with me unless I share mine with them?

  2. Chris, thanks for posting and kind words. You’re spot on about sharing our lives. It is hard and scary to model transparency in an unsafe environment. Yet, putting it all out there gives people permission to do it as well, and to model what safety and love can look like. Being at a church where folks “get it” (their identity is in Christ) is so sweet and worth the work, pain and tears. We’re still in process, but God has blessed us with people we have come to dearly love.

  3. Like Chris, I haven’t really thought about these things either, at least not to that extent. When considering whether or not to invite friends to a church service the question of “Will church scare them away?” always seems to come up. It’s not necessarily the “rituals” that we do that would scare them away, it’s just the fact that they have no clue about what is going on.

    I also found you from your contribution to Outreach Magazine. I really like what you said there, and here in this post also. Keep up the great work!

  4. Good point, Matthew. So, how do you help folks understand what is going on? I’d welcome your thoughts because we’re still trying to figure it out.

    Thanks for your comments.

  5. As I am not in any key leadership role in the church I attend I don’t really have a lot of opportunities to let people know what’s going on, but I believe that the best way to let people know what is happening, is by telling them. A simple “Join with us as we sing to God in praise” before worship would definitely clear a few things up. Before prayer one could say, “Pray with us as we come to speak with our Lord.” Just simple “warnings” you could say would remove some of the possible misconceptions. Of course, it would solve all of your problems, but I think it could have some positive impact.

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