Response 1: Tim Myers
Good question, and one I think others are wrestling with. In answering the question I think it’s worth examining the concept of a relationship. I know that when I was lecturing, many times audience members who were not church members or students of Christian Science came with friends or others with whom they had a relationship. The success of those lectures in reaching the newcomer depended on those relationships.
The same is true for churches. Church’s that are successful sharing Christian Science often have a growing relationship with the community that is based on more than one or two events in a year. I remember being invited by a church to lecture at a juvenile detention center in Florida. Because of a disturbance the facility was locked down and no one was allowed in or out. I ended up speaking at a homeless facility where the manager was so excited he asked when the church could do it again. I let the church members know and they agreed to pray about it. Those prayers led them out into the community. Several members volunteered at the facility, and a member trained as a librarian went to the detention center and helped them set up and stock a library.
The next year I was invited back to lecture at the homeless facility and also the detention center. The lecture at the center was the first of what has become "Christian Science Tuesdays.” Every Tuesday for the past six years, some church members go into the facility and hold a Sunday School type class for the residents. And, they've added a girl’s detention facility also. They talk to 30-40 young people every Tuesday night. They continue to have lectures at both the center and the homeless facility.
Sometimes when I don’t feel our church is being effective in reaching out, I re-read what Mary Baker Eddy wrote to the church in Lawrence, MA. She wrote of branch Churches “reaching out their broad shelter to the entire world” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 154). She continued to indicate that God’s love is the key: “He will dig about this little church, prune its encumbering branches, water it with the dews of heaven, enrich its roots, and enlarge its borders with divine Love.”
I pray to know that divine Love is always effective in helping us develop a fresh and nurturing relationship between our church and our community.
Response 2: Michelle Nanouche
Your lectures give a precious inside look into Christian Science – what it is and what it does. More than meeting a requirement, lectures bless those that plan, sponsor, and attend. Because of your expectation of good results, I have to assume your church is giving fresh eyes to the lecture work, and approaching it with prayer before, during, and after. So if, with all that, you aren’t finding even a trickle of interest in your church, is there something wrong? Not necessarily.
We don’t always account for the movement going on behind the scenes. I just spoke with a new Mother Church member who learned of Christian Science through a lecture flyer that appeared in her mailbox ten years ago. Science and Health was pictured on it. She had been looking for a “key” to help her understand the Bible. She never attended the event; but she bought the book, discovered the key, and practiced nine years on her own before connecting with other Christian Scientists. She wasn’t alone. She was walking with God.
Another activity that often picks up around lecture time is a flurry of new calls to area practitioners. This result follows our prayer to embrace the community. Church members wouldn’t hear of this because practitioners keep confidential all information coming to them in their work. But when light is turned on the practice of Christian Science in a community, the demand is there.
Christ Jesus spoke to loads more people than those who became official disciples. He healed multitudes, preached in synagogues, and reached out to those on the street. His expectation from them was two-fold – that they glorify God and that they “sin no more” – that is, that they take to heart and into their homes what they have experienced of the Christ.
We can pray for the seeker, that he find. But the sincerest prayer leaves the seeker with the Father, and with no other strings attached. When giving a toaster to a new bride, do we give it on the condition that she uses it in our house? No. Given freely, she can go home and make toast. But every time she does, she will love you once more for your generosity in giving it. You are being loved by your community for the gifts you freely give.
Lectures make Christian Science accessible to our neighbors. But don’t judge yourself or your neighbors too harshly if you only see them that one time. We work in church not to increase a congregation, but to increase our love. If you are feeling the love, your community is getting the right message.