Luke 24:1–3 (ESV) But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.This week I have been thinking…
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.
How does one accept God’s plans when the are so different from your own. It’s easy to say have faith when all is going well but when there are bumps and sometimes mountains in the road, it’s not so easy. I must be missing some large piece of the puzzle because praying, studying God’s word, worshiping has not helped me accept this new path.
I feel like a fake when it comes to faith because mine is so weak right now. I feel like doubting Thomas, I want to see proof. I need to know on this Christmas Eve that God has not forgotten me because it feels like he has.
No, I didn’t misspell presence. I never thought about the fact that presents and presence are homophones. Two words with different spellings and meanings but pronounced the same way. I think there is significance in this discovery. Why? Because now at Christmas it is so easy to get focused on presents. I won’t lie. I love buying and giving gifts. To see the joy and excitement on my loved ones’ faces brings me such joy. But if I asked them to tell me what they got for Christmas last year they might be able to name one or two things but if I ask them what we did, I am certain they would remember.
Our shared worship experience, our shared Christmas Eve, our shared Christmas Day meal, opening presents together, a movie or games played, the funny family selfie, those are the things we remember. It is our presence together which makes the holiday memorable, not the gifts. Our celebration has undergone a change these last 3 years and it would be easy to focus on who was missing, but we have chosen to focus on who is present and the presence of Jesus. He is the focus of our Christmas.
It is His presence in our lives that adds a fullness and richness which no amount of presents could match. We may not have a perfect family or a perfect home but we have a perfect little baby, Jesus who isthe son of God andthe Prince of Peace. He came to save the world. He came to save me and you.
Merry Christmas and may 2016 find your life full of blessings and peace.