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Churches throw open their doors to all guests to celebrate ‘Back to Church Sunday’

POSTED: September 14, 2013 1:30 a.m.

Churches are glad to see new visitors any Sunday, but this Sunday is particularly inviting.

Congregations for all different denominations will open their doors Sunday morning and take a more active role in inviting people to attend services.

Several churches from around the area are participating in a national movement called "Back to Church Sunday" on Sept. 15. The annual event aims to get church goers of all walks and denominations to invite the "unchurched and de-churched" to Sunday services.

According to a press release from Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Jefferson, the American Religious Identification Survey showed 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians. In contrast another survey by the Barna Group indicated only about 20 percent of Americans attend church on any given Sunday.

The idea is simple enough. The congregations of more than 20,000 churches across the country will offer personal invitations to people in their communities to attend the service on Back to Church Sunday.

The Rev. Tim Taylor of Ebenezer UMC said he hopes his "floors sag and the walls bulge" this Sunday.

"We hope to get people reacquainted with church and fight the negative stereotype that appears to be in the community at large," Taylor said. "We also want to show people who may have gone and fallen away that there is always a home for you to come back to."

Taylor said the atmosphere of inviting others to church is similar to inviting neighbors to a birthday party.

"It also gives our neighbors a no-strings-attached way to try out church again," Taylor said. "Many have been hurt in church. Many never really felt comfortable. Let’s face it many were just run off from church, often by well-intentioned people."

Dwayne Smith, lead pastor of Compass Church in Gainesville, said he’s asked his congregation to participate and offer invitations to people they know because he believes "it will change lives in our community on levels."

"I think a community that has a stronger faith in God is a stronger community," Smith said.

Smith said he’d like to see the church as it was 50 years ago, when families attended together every Sunday and communities helped one another.

"I think when the church does what its supposed to do then the government wouldn’t have to step in so much ..." Smith said. "We’ve just got to get back to that."

Smith said he recognizes that some people who don’t attend church may feel uncomfortable at a church for one reason or another.

"The way the church is set up, guys are happy, they hug each other, man, woman, whatever. Typically guys don’t hug," Smith said. "Biggest problem with church is it’s a place for church people."

Smith said the best way to help people overcome their reservations about attending church is to offer a personal invitation to people they know.

"When you invite people that you know, if they like it then they’ll invite people they know," Smith said. "Then you reach more people. When you personally invite somebody, it’s just so much more effective than just throwing an announcement out there because it’s just personal and people like a personal touch."


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