A family of coneheads recently moved into the vacant house down the street. They seem nice enough, though they look and act a little odd. We're wondering if they'll visit our church. Of course, they would be welcome. But, still, they may prefer worshiping with their own kind. They say coneheads worship in their own unique way.
Well, sure, this is humor, straight from an SNL parody featuring Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Laraine Newman. The skit debuted in 1977 and a full-length film was released in 1993. With their odd shaped heads, strange voices, off-beat lifestyle, and colorful language they came from the planet Remulak to spearhead an invasion from outer space. They were never suspected of being aliens. They told everyone they were from France. The moral was quite obvious: people who are different than us can enhance life in every venue---work, school, the market place, and the hood.
Had the writers scripted an episode titled The Coneheads Go to Church, the result may have been more tragedy than comedy. It's not something we'd put on the sign out front, behind a "What to Expect" button on the web site, or in any of the church promotional material. But, we all know us sinful humans have a registry of biases, prejudices, and presuppositions. Getting real, the greeter committee may not be as out front with coneheads as they would be with people who are like us.
And, that may be a primary reason 15 SBC churches will hold their final service each and every Sunday of the year. Someone has said that 90% of these congregations are actually in growing communities. That being true, the broad-brush conclusion about them must be that they've discovered the identity of their neighbors and have decided, usually in an informal way, not to include them in their mission. They don't want to have a church full of coneheads.
OK, let's be fair! If the process of a declining church begins with an exodus of their younger membership cohort, then the remaining leaders and church members may actually not know how to reach a conehead population. Who's to say the old dog and new tricks thing isn't real to some degree? It's true, though, the learning curve is steeper for people not accustomed to the warp and woof of cultural change. There's a clear possibilty that many of these declining churches really don't know how to make the course corrections necessary to reach coneheads.
All the same, if we are to be as innocent as doves and wise as snakes, we can't over- look the fact that many congregatons just simply won't welcome coneheads into their fellowship, or any other minority, for that matter. The issue, then, is deeper than cultural linguistics, the dynamics of change, worship preferences, appropriate dress, or any of the other physical barriers than can disconnect us from the world outside. No, it's a sin problem, the transgression of creating groups that have been made one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), the sin of not lovng our neighbor, the spiritual error of exclusion, disobedience to the commission of making disciples of all nations. Oh yes, and of course, that puts us out of sync with Him. Check out 1 John 4:20-21. What is more, in this scenario, we have hi-jacked title deed to the church and made it ours and not His. How can we expect His blessing if we are bigoted in this way, even when we cover such an attitude with our Sunday School words.
Engaging the people group next door means absolutely nothing unless the coneheads next door are included too.