There is so much we can learn about what a warm, inviting church should look like when we reflect on the early church. The book of Acts 2:42-47 tells us:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
Doesn’t this sound like the kind of church to which we would all like to belong? This early church truly set a beautiful example of what an ideal church culture should look like.
As described in earlier blogs, in 2013 the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research supervised a survey of church members around the world. The study was designed to assess church members’ experiences and attitudes regarding different aspects of their spiritual lives and their participation in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Our last blog examined some of the factors that impact the feeling of warmth within a church; this blog will further expand on these factors.
When asked about the feeling of warmth within their local congregation, nearly half (48.2%) of global respondents in seven world divisions (the three African Divisions, the Inter-American, South American, Southern Asia-Pacific, and South Pacific Divisions) indicated that they feel this is always true of their church. Almost one in four (23.7%) said that they feel this is usually true. Similarly, when members were asked if they feel their church is friendly, more than half (51.5%) responded that they feel this is always true, with a further one in four (24.4%) sharing that they feel this is usually true.
A large part of creating a warm church culture involves being welcoming of new people, especially of those who are distinctly different.
- Over half (53.9%) responded that they feel that strangers are always welcome in their church.
- Nearly another quarter (22.5%) answered that they feel this is usually true of their church.
- Almost three out of five (58.1%) of respondents feel that their church is always accepting of those who are different.
- Another 20.6% shared that they feel their church is usually accepting of those who are different.
One of the significant areas we see where the early church excelled was in the area of fellowship. How does the Seventh-day Adventist church do in this area? Over half (55.6%) of its members worldwide shared that they feel it is always true that their church provides fellowship. Additionally, 23.0% responded that they felt this was usually true. Only a tiny percent (4.0%) felt this is not at all true.
In contrast with data from these seven divisions, only 66% of respondents from the North American Division said that strangers in their churches were always welcome or usually welcome and 49% said that their churches provided fellowship. While this number represents two-thirds of respondents it is still lower than the percentages recorded from other parts of the world. Interestingly, in the Trans-European Division, 82% of survey participants reported that their churches were friendly.
A warm church environment was something that attracted new Christians to the early church and is frequently something that impacts not only the attraction of new members to our Church but the retention of members, as well. How can you create a warmer, more Christ-centered climate in your own congregation?
Check our previous blogs for the topics of your interest here.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry
Published by ASTR