DOES YOUR church have a “happy hour”?


          Does church have to be boring?  Do parishioners sometimes doze off during the services or do others seem to have their thoughts elsewhere and only their bodies are in the pew?  Could our Sunday morning services be billed as “Happy hours”?  Why is it the only notice posted for “Happy hours” are at a local bar?  Do bars have a monopoly on happy hours?  Do you think that anyone would believe you if you said our church’s Sunday services are happy, inspirational and challenging?  Could you convince your neighbors or friends that one of the highlight experiences of the week happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning? 


          Some years ago a study was conducted as to why high school youngsters wanted to come to school.  Do you think that their responses consisted of algebra, history or Language Arts?   No, their major attraction of coming to school was to be with friends.  Might one of the major reasons for attending church be the same reason?  Many congregations lament the decline in their churches’ attendance and/or membership.  Current research reveals two types of churches are experiencing growth in both areas.  One type is the smaller churches (membership of 100 or less) and the other is the mega-churches with 400 or more worshipers.  Most of the churches in between these two figures are experiencing declines in both growth and participation.  The most common reason given by the smaller churches for their growth and the maintaining of members is that the congregation seems like family.  But how does one explain the growth in the mega-churches?   Almost all of them are involved in arranging opportunities for members to meet with one another in the homes of members or other locations.  So what do these data seem to suggest?  One obvious indication is that members need a sense of belonging and being part of the larger congregation.


          I am not suggesting that the churches become like social clubs as they have other purposes.  Also a church unlike a club exists not only for its members, but also for non-members.  Rather, I look at the church  (not the building or the time spent in the building, but people) as a hospital.  Churches like hospitals are full of people who are hurting in one way or another.  Also hospitals are places where people go to have their wounds healed.  It is important to note the nowhere in the Bible is the place where Christians meet referred to as a “church”.  Although the word “church” appears around 75 times in our English Bibles, depending on the translation.  In almost every instance “church” is a translation the Greek word “ecclesia” and the literal meaning of that word is “those called out” or “called out ones”.  Many of you are aware that early “churches” in the first century met in homes.  

In more recent times, however, the majority of believers have met in buildings built especially for their purposes.  Lately, you probably have noticed that is a return to “home groups”, which explains why small and mega-churches are so successful in gaining and maintaining members.  Perhaps Jesus was referring to churches placing more emphasis on churches as hospitals, when as in Mark 2:15-17: 15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)
16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

       Further, He also said that whenever two or more are gathered in His name, that He would be there with them.  What happens when congregations begin to see the church as a hospital?  When you are physically sick, you go to the hospital to get well.  Would its members assume greater responsibility for getting and giving assistance to overcome spiritual ailments?  Would such an emphasis entitle churches to post “Happy Hour” signs to describe their services?