What An Amusement Park Taught Me About Church

roller coasterOn a cloudy Monday with forecasted intermittent rain showers, my family loaded the van and headed to the local amusement park.  We hoped to pack in as many rides we could before rain began to fall.  We arrived to a near empty park.  In fact, it was so desolate I was the only riding one of the roller coasters.  Initially, I thought, “This is great.  I don’t have to wait in lines.  I can just hop on any ride I want!”  
I left the park somewhat unamused. Something was missing.  The something missing  was the thrill of a shared experience.  “Screaming together on a roller coaster really does bring people closer together, which is why when we look at the top rides at amusement parks it is always the attractions that can be experienced as a group,” according to Mark Kupferman, marking and research VP of Six Flags. 
My experience that day got me thinking about church. I wonder if a sparsely attended church service has the same effect on a visitor?   I know we are told not to judge by appearances alone, but the reality is that we all do it.  What did you think the last time you entered an empty restaurant?  I bet you thought, “Where is everybody?  What’s wrong with this restaurant?” before even looking at the menu.  The reality is our instincts make us fearful whether we’re trying a new restaurant or visiting a new church.  Likewise, a first-time visitor walking into a sparsely attended church service might instinctively wonder “what’s wrong with this church?” before ever hearing a song or the message.  
What I learned that day on the roller coaster applies to the local church.  The presence of people effects a visitor’s perception of the service.  After all, worship is a shared experience of the people of God.  My presence matters.  Your presence matters.  Your presence encourages others.  According to Hebrews 10:25, gathering together for worship is shared experience of mutual encouragement. It’s a “ride” the Lord commands us to take every week rain or shine for His glory.  
I don’t fault Dorney Park for my lack of amusement on that rainy Monday. They don’t control of the weather.  However, when it comes to church we are in control of our attendance.  Your regular presence at church will positively contribute to the experience of a first time visitor at your local church.  Walking into a new church (let alone a near empty one) can be just as intimidating as riding a roller coaster.  Let’s make that walk a little easier for them, as we share in worship together.

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