One summer, I was at wits end. My elders graciously granted me a sabbatical of several months. During the Sundays of those two months, my family continued to attend our church while I took Sunday morning road trips to different churches.
Several impressions remain from those visits. First, I remember how intimidating it was to go to a church where I did not know anyone. Second, I clearly remember how few people greeted me or took an interest in me. Of the eight churches I visited, exactly one person held a conversation with me. At church after church, I walked in alone, sat alone, worshipped alone and walked out alone without having one significant conversation.
But let me tell you about the exception. This dear woman, about 20 years my senior, sang in the choir. When the choir was dismissed, she came down, walked all the way to the rear of the church and sat a row behind me. When the service was over, she introduced herself and engaged me in conversation. She asked significant and appropriate questions. I left that church feeling as if I had connected with someone. Looking back on that day, I believe this was a ministry she had appointed herself to. While singing in the choir, she must have been scanning for first-time visitors to welcome.
Tongue-tied Christians often wonder about how to find open doors. But one obvious opportunity that the Lord gives to us is visitors to our own church. Most of these folks are filled with unease and fear. Have you ever walked into a party where you don’t know anyone? Scary. Have you ever been at a meeting where you couldn’t leave without making a scene? Intimidating. A church service presents both these challenges to first-time visitors.
Greet one another (1 Thess 5:26) is a command. This is one of the most basic ways we love each other. Scripture says Christians are to be hospitable (Rom 12:13). But the literal meaning of that word is a lover of strangers. To be hospitable really starts with welcoming strangers into our hearts and then into our homes. Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matt 25:35)
God is bringing people to you. Who can you welcome to your fellowship? Make it the your job and the job of your family.
I could not agree more, Chap! Because we have spent many weeks in Florida over the years, we have experienced the acute discomfort of being ignored at church services. We finally found a church “vacation” home, and I do agree that we landed there because they greeted up so warmly.
Now, I make it a point for my girls to greet new visitors with teens, while we have coffee with their parents. We have been blessed with many amazing friendships which might have been missed had these great folks felt socially “dissed” after our service.
And, way back when, I clearly remember how we were greeted by the folks at LCF. Life-changing experience for the Thorntons.