Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Visitor At Church (Part 4)

This is the last of my four part series of being a visitor at church.

Read the first article here

Read the second here

Read the third here

Ministerial Message

A Visitor At Church (Part 4)

Last summer (2009) I wrote the first of a four part series of my observations of being a visitor at Church during the summer of 2009. It seems like a distant memory by now, but last summer we were away from LPC for 11 Sundays. In my first article I challenged people that attend church to remember what it was like to be a visitor at church as we can so quickly forget. In my second article I underscored how important it is to “Be Friendly!” A friendly person could make all the difference in how we viewed the service. In the third article I wrote about how many churches we visited had no children in attendance and it made me ask the question, are kids no longer welcome? You can read the articles on our blog page (LPCHOME.BLOGSPOT.COM) if you missed any of them. This is the fourth and final article in the series (though I have a few more observations I would like to write about but maybe another time). In every church we went to, we soon discovered that they had “a way” that they did their services. Now, I am not talking about the order of service, which was usually in a bulletin, but the things that happen in the service that are not mentioned publicly but understood between the leaders and those that attend there. Let me tell you, there is nothing that makes you feel more unwelcome than to feel that you are the only one that is totally unaware of what is happening next in the worship hour. The way I have described how this feels is like taking a rollercoaster ride, that you have never been on before, and riding it blindfolded. When we would go to church, and find a place to sit, often the leader or pastor would do or say things that would evoke a vocal response from the people that we did not know the words or expression. Sometimes they would be just going along fine in the service and people would just stand up all around us! Sometimes people would just bow or kneel to pray, which is all good but we did not know that they were going to do it. They did, but we did not, and no one was warning us “hang on, here comes a corner”. Let me tell you folks, when you are trying to blend into a Sunday morning as a visitor and everyone stands except you and you quickly try to join everyone, forgetting that you have a book or books on your lap and everything falls on the floor, LOUDLY, it does not add blessing to the experience! If I was a seeker of the Lord and if I had gone through this experience that we did in several churches on a Sunday, I would NOT be coming back. So can I ask that we, who go to church, help show new people “the way” in our services? In a book of the Bible called Acts, it records how that God was beginning to have people who were not Jews, come to saving faith in Christ. This was very hard for the Jewish Christians to at first accept. It was also hard for the non Jewish Christians to feel apart of what God had been doing with the Jewish people for years, with all their traditions and long held structures of leadership and practices. I am sure they felt much the same as I did last summer. To make matters worse, the Jewish Christians were telling the non Jewish Christian that they had to do certain things to be truly apart of the new work of God. This did not sit well with any of them! There was such a dispute on how to treat the “new comers” that there was a council meeting in Jerusalem to discuss the matter. You can read about it in Acts Chapter 15. After the two sides were done presenting their views, James, the moderator of the meeting, says 19"It is my judgement, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles (non Jewish people) who are turning to God”. Did you see that “we should not make it DIFFICULT”. What wise council to us as part of established church to take the time to explain, even before the service, what will be some of the “turns and bends” in their time together as a visitor. It will be just like kindly taking off “the blindfold” and so they can enjoy the ride. I remember one older lady who did this for us in one service. What a blessing it was to our whole family (I just wish that she would have told us that they use real wine for their communion, but that is another story). By just helping a visitor to feel loved by you, taking the time to let them know what is coming next will make all the difference to them, and you will be blessed also knowing that God is using you.

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