Here is the next message to our local paper in the series "A Visitor at Church"
I found out yesterday at our local ministerial meeting that no one was scheduled to take over the weekly Lodge service or submit an article to the Advisor, so Pastor Lisa took the Service and I took the article since I have been looking forward to talking to you some more about the lessons we learned while being a visitor at church. If you are not sure what I am talking about, please pick up last week’s paper from the Advisor office; Linda usually has a few extra to sell. That article was week #1 in my series and I challenged you all to remember what it was like to be a visitor at church as we can so quickly forget. Here is my second lesson; Be Friendly! Has the church become a club for its members? When did this happen that those who were new to a church family were not really welcome anymore? When did the church decide that those we don’t know, we will ignore? One of the things that really amazed me as we visited many churches was how so few people would be genuinely pleased you were at their church. Week after week we would walk in, sit down, be a part of the service and leave and the only time people would say “hello” was the part in the service where the leader would tell them to “pass the peace”. Only then they would turn, smile politely and say “hello”. I remember one time we went to a church, we participated in their entire service, (including communion in which they gave no instructions, but I will write about that another time) then walked out without anyone really, genuinely saying “welcome here”. Amazing! The funny thing is that we ended up out for lunch in the same place with most of the same people that we had just spent 1 ½ hours with in their small church. They all sat together at the same tables and acted like they had never seen us before.. haa. How sad! My friends, this should not be! Now as a pastor, my relationship with the Lord was not shaken, but if I was wondering about spiritual things, what would I have learned that day about God or His people? You see, when Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1), He gave us His Holy Spirit so that, when we receive Him as our Lord, we can then represent Him (“be his witnesses”) to people that Jesus loves but who may not know it. We get to show them Jesus’ love everyday of the week, not just on Sunday. Yet when the local family of God gets together on a Sunday, should we not be looking at how we can represent the Lord as they gather? What picture do you give people of what God is like when you gather? That He is disinterested in them? That God only loves church members? That God is only interested in visitors if they are the same as us? This, again, should not be. Jesus describes his mission on earth like this: “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” Luke 19:10 (New Living Translation). He was accused of hanging out too much with the “wrong people”. I feel that much of the church has lost its way and we have tried to distance ourselves from those who are not like us or from people we may not feel we relate to. Jesus loved all people and when we are in our churches I suggest that we do the same, especially those who are new(er) among us. Maybe just being genuinely friendly would make such an impact for the Lord that it could change someone’s life? Maybe if we asked them who they are and what brought them to our church today, it could make all the difference in their experience. The church is the Body of Christ. Let us be His hands welcoming, let’s be His voice affirming and blessing those who are visiting. We may find a blessing in it for us also. More next time. Comments? Please check our blog at LPCHOME.blogspot.com and write away.