“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”Psalm 23:2-3a He first noticed that he was getting tired easily. Then it seemed like he was worn out all day long. Then, as he tells the story, he started to be able to hear his heart beat. That…
Psalm 23:1“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”We were riding around in his pickup truck. Jimmy was giving us a tour of his ranch. As we drove along we heard one his cows just bellowing away. It turned out that one of her calves was trapped in the fence. The calf had one…
Since relocating three years ago, I have been visiting churches. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve visited. They include churches of all sizes and denominations. I remember thinking my church (where I was involved prior to my divorce) was friendly and what I have learned is that friendly and inviting are not the same thing. Every church I’ve been to has some moment either before or during the service to greet the people around you. At a few churches no one has approached me. At most churches people shake my hand and say hello but that is the end of the moment. At only two churches have members taken the time to introduce themselves, ask a question or two about me and then invite me to join them in some additional activity. I even had a couple offer to walk with me to their Sunday School Class. I had a woman offer to pay for me to attend their women’s dinner when she find out I was unemployed. Guess which churches I liked the best?
Shaking someone’s hand and saying hello doesn’t cut it. It is difficult enough to walk into a church not knowing a soul, especially when you are alone. I remember being comfortable at my church and being involved. In the beginning I was great at seeking out and inviting new people to join me in Sunday School or a Bible Study or a women’s group or a family event. But over time, like most people, I became complacent. I am learning first hand how not reaching out beyond a handshake makes a visitor feel excluded and unwanted.
When you are busy chitchatting with your friends about an upcoming event, I am left standing there twiddling my thumbs praying the pastor hurries up and tells us to sit down. A visitor is a fish out of water. A handshake and hello does not invite them in for a swim. Now some of you may be saying I need to make an effort and just join a group. While that thought is nice in theory, in practice there are very few people that will actually on their own step out of their comfort zone and join a group. For most people just being brave enough to visit a church is placing them way outside their comfort zone. It is up to the church members to reach out and invite the visitors to experience their church on a deeper and more personal level. Don’t say to yourself, well we have a committee to do that. Or we have people that do a follow up call. It is the responsibility of every believer to try and make that connection.
So next time you have those moments to greet people or share the peace, take the time to get their name and find something out about them. If you don’t have time, make sure you get them before they walk out of the sanctuary. Invite them to something. Get their email, give them your email. Get out of your comfort zone and make your church not just a friendly place but an inviting place.
You never know when you read someone’s blog how it will you. The past few years of my life have been the most difficult I’ve ever experienced. My desperation drove me to the brink of death. My therapist has been telling me God has led me to this loin and this place to heal, to heal my heart and build a new life. Below is a repost of my old Pastor’s Blog. His words are wise and so true.
Are You Ready for God to Change Your Plans? Luke 1:28–29 (ESV) And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. Are you ready for God to change your plans?
A lifetime of care and support
You stand by my side forgiving me my faults
The mother of my children
My faithful wife
An understanding friend
A loving daughter-in-law
Lover of God, follower of Jesus, community volunteer
A sensual and eager lover
I will love you forever
The joke is on you, I cheated, I bought sex, I denied, I walked away and left you alone and financially destitute. I betrayed our family. I broke my daughters’ hearts. I left them behind and chose not to be their father. I stood before God and lied. Lied, lied, lied. I am Doug and I am a fallacy personified.