Why people aren’t coming to church (well Niddrie at least)

Why people aren’t coming to church (well Niddrie at least)

When I first came to Niddrie 4 years ago several pastors in the area informed me that if they were in charge they would move the Sunday morning service at Niddrie from 11am to the mid afternoon. When I asked them how they had arrive at this ‘scientific’ conclusion they informed me that ‘everybody knows that people from places like Niddrie don’t get up until the middle of the day.’

At the time I just shrugged off this breathtaking stereotypical ignorance and reminded myself that none of them were actually in Niddrie and were never likely to be! 4 years later we still have our morning services at 11am and we now have an afternoon service at 5:30pm which I feel is late enough in the day to attract even the most keen of sleepers! The result is that we hardly attract any locals to our morning services but we are packed to the rafters in the afternoons.

NOT!!! Dearie me, people. This stuff makes me want to pull out my teeth, jab the bleeding shards into my eyeballs and buy a country music CD. OK, maybe I overdid it with the CD but give me a break! The people of Niddrie are not staying away from church as a form of silent protest against our opening hours. Picture the scene in a typical Niddrie home.

Time 1pm. A woman shouts upstairs to her partner,  ‘You up love? It’s breakfast time!’ ‘Be right there!’ he shouts. Off she saunters to prepare his bowl of Museli with the semi skimmed, organic, fee range, Mexican corn-fed milk of a virgin ostrich that he likes so much. She always makes his favourite on a Sunday because she knows how down he gets on this day of the week. ‘Here you go love,’ she says, kissing him on the cheek and ruffling his fresh washed hair. ‘Aww thanks hen,’ he sighs and settles down to eat. ‘Any news? A phone call? An email? Anything?’ She asks him hopefully. He looks up, bottom lip trembling, a small, glass like tear slides slowly down his cheek. ‘No, not this week. Maybe next, heh?’ He manages to whisper. ‘Yes’, she says. ‘There’s always next week.’ Inside she knows it’s not true. They had written hundreds of emails and made just as many phone calls. But they weren’t for budging. They had their rules and they weren;t prepared to change them for anybody. They were so desperate to go. To be a part of it all but it seems that there wasn’t a place for those who liked to lie in on a Sunday morning. If only they had it at 1pm or something like that. But they didn’t. It was 11am and it seemed that, despite their protestations, church would be a closed space for them. It was such a shame.

The people of Niddrie are not coming to church on Sunday mornings because – and get this, it’s groundbreaking – THEY DON’T WANT TO! I know can you believe it? People don’t actually want to come to our services. They don’t want to sing, pray and hear the Word of God proclaimed to them. They don’t want to be challenged by the truths of their sinfulness, their precarious spiritual condition, the danger of eternal damnation and they certainly don’t want to hear the amazing rescue plan of God in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unbelievable, hey?

Trust me, on Giro day people are camping outside the post office at 8am. I have seen people queuing to score heroin even earlier than that. People are waiting for our cafe to open Monday – Saturday’s at 10am and yet are nowhere to be seen on Sunday’s. So the problem for us is not timing. The problem is that people are hard-hearted sinners. The problem is that we have an enemy who ensures that the veil stays over people’s hearts and minds. That’s why our best strategy is persistent prayer. There seems to be a bit of muddled thinking in certain circles around this stuff. Some think that all we need to do is change our name, name badges, chuck a sofa in the building, serve Mochas and change the serve times to ‘attract the unchurched’. It is not as simple as that.

I don’t lose too much sleep over Sunday morning attendance in Niddrie largely because I don’t need these people to come to our services on Sunday mornings when I have access to them 6 days a week anyway. We are still working things out here in Niddrie and the key is to have a flexible approach to our methodology but a settled approach to our doctrine and theology. Pray for us. We want to honour God and we want to be realistic about the people we are serving.