Don't Forget Your "Chreaster Christians"
If your church is like most, there were 3 categories of people who visited this weekend: current church family, prospects, and the Chreasters (or Holiday Hoppers, or C-E's, or whatever you call those people who only show up on Christmas and Easter.) Chreasters are the ones who'll make your attendance skyrocket those Sundays without any spiritual dividends. They're there because of tradition, or family, or folk theology, but there's an unspoken agreement that they won't bother then church and the church won't bother them the other 50 weeks of the year. Maybe this year, we should break that agreement.
Now, all but the most naive Chreasters know not to fill out a visitors form, and even if they did, I'm not suggesting we start begging them to pay attention to us. But I do believe that we should be doing a few things in 8 1/2 months we have before we see them for Christmas.
1. Look at them differently.
This one's probably the hardest part, but it's the foundation for everything else. It's easy to be cynical about C-E's, tolerating them as the required "dross" that comes with the "pure silver" of the seeking visitor. In some cases, C-E's will continue to show up, sleepwalking through religious tradition year after year. But a few will eventually wake up. In fact, there are almost certainly some people in your pews (or your pulpit or writing this blog) who were Chreaster zombies before they became vibrant followers of Christ.
2. Look at us differently.
If some C-E's will wake up, there are implications for us as the church. If you knew that some of your Chreasters were future family members who were hibernating for a while, you might see your role a bit differently. For these people, you are a spiritual tether, a group of people they associate with Christ who can help bridge the gap between their lives and His. Tending to the relationship now gives them a homebase, and an obvious place to go to when they finally wake with questions. By giving them a handful of foundational truths, showing them hospitality, and letting them see your mysterious joy and love, you're giving them clues for that future day.
3. Partner with God
Twice a year attendance means you're not going to woo them in with your programs. That's great news, because it's not about you or your budget or the next programming fad. These people aren't spiritually apathetic because you're programs aren't good enough. Your programs aren't good enough because their spirits are apathetic. Happily, that's not your department. You can't prick their conscience, or make their hearts tender. You can't sovereignly arrange their circumstances or speak to them in a still, small voice. But you know Who can, and you can go to Him faithfully on behalf of your visitors. These people are beyond your reach--they're spiritually comatose, but God's quite good at raising the comatose. And someday when He disturbs their sleep, you can be there to answer questions, love them, and celebrate when they move from the Chreaster list to the Kingdom's family tree.
As I write this, we have 260 days until Christmas. That's eight and a half months to forget these visitors, to regard them cynically, to write them off. Or maybe this year, we the church--the formerly spiritually comatose--could spend these eight and a half months of praying that God would shake them from their slumber. And when He does, let's be there when they wake up.