In the attractional church world, “bling” matters. And most often our “religious bling” comes in the form of bigger and better church buildings fully equipped with the latest and greatest creature comforts: movie seating, HD video screens, cutting edge audio, coffee shops, indoor playgrounds, climbing walls…and yes even swimming pools! No joke, I served at a church with a full fitness center including an indoor junior olympic size swimming pool.

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And before I sound too pious, I must confess in my earlier years I have led the charge helping churches expand and relocate and take on millions of dollars of debt all in the name of competing with the world (and truthfully more often other churches) for a marketshare of the religiously curious.

No longer!

The swimming pool that I hang out at these days is the community swimming pool in my town home neighborhood. On any given summer day (and yes, even on Sundays) the pool is an active place, breaming with life and conversation. This is where we are doing church at these days. Sounds a little sacrilegious to some I am sure. And before you go and write me off as one having spent too much time in the sun, YES we do still gather for worship with other believers.

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In another life I was the pastor tasked with the “connections” ministry of our church. This meant staffing teams of volunteers to greet the churched and unchurched alike who attended. I found this to be one of the most rewarding parts of my ministry. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and occasionally being the one to accompany them as they take next steps on their spiritual journeys. But here is where the rub comes in…what you find today is that less and less people are choosing to attend church (even with our bigger and better buildings). One poll showed that only 18% of people receiving an invite to attend a church accept that invitation. That means 82% do not.

Jesus was and is the friend of the 82% (and the 18% as well) but you get my point. What about us? To my religious friends, where do we spend our time, who do we hang out with, could it be said of us, as it was of Jesus that we are the friends of the publicans and sinners?

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My church has a swimming pool and it just so happens it’s in my very own neighborhood. God is continuing to give us new friendships and spiritual conversations as we focus our time and attention on the 82%. Why not jump in, the waters fine!

- Jim Mustain, Forge Dallas