Early on in my time of being involved in house church, my mentor, Larry T., and I made an observation I wanted to share (of course with the caveat that there are always exceptions to any rule like this).
Everybody is different and has different reactions to the more intimate and communal setting of house church and an open meeting. First reactions widely vary, but invariably we would get a visitor from time to time that would just be blown away by the meeting or the group. They get really excited and say things like: “This is real church! I can’t believe a group like this exists! That was the best worship I’ve ever been a part of! I could feel the presence of God like never before! I’ll be here every week!”
Now, for us in the group who are a part of something we also think is great and edifying, hearing these things gets us excited, too. “Did you hear what the visitors said? Oh, it’s so encouraging.” It is natural to want others to experience and join something you think is a treasure.
But then you never see those visitors again. They never come back. Whether the meeting was at a time that wasn’t “convenient” for them or they were already heavily involved in another church or sometimes not even hearing from them again at all, they don’t come back. Understanding this is a generalization, but it happened enough times that it became an expectation among us that those that were super excited probably won’t ever be back.
Some people just have super positive and excited personalities. They probably think Kindergarten Cop was the best movie ever made. It isn’t a spiritual thing and they weren’t speaking from any place of real commitment. They experienced something real and reacted to the moment, very positively (which is still encouraging), but it takes much more than a positive emotional reaction to stay committed to a group. You learn to be glad that people were blessed by the meeting but guard your heart and not be disappointed that you don’t see them again.
There was a flip side to this observation (both sides of which have proven generally true over the past fifteen years of all kinds of ministry all over the world). There are also the visitors who sit in your meeting, don’t participate, and sit there with a frown on their face the whole time. They look at you like you’re crazy, sometimes even with this half expectation you’re about to get the snakes out at any moment. At the end of the night, they might say, “Hmnn. It was interesting.” They’re trying to be polite.
And they’re the ones that come back. And they keep coming back. Maybe they ask some challenging questions, but they are being challenged themselves. And often they are the ones that grow with the group and become dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.