Published May 18, 2010
Last week I wrote about going to two church yard sales. At one I was ignored. At the other, I was made to feel welcome and invited back for church services. It was a reminder that we represent Jesus Christ and need to be sure we are reaching out to those around us. The column generated several responses. I will share a couple replies (edited), as well as a couple thoughts of my own.
- "Right now I'm going through withdrawals in my church. I missed a week ago Sunday. No one called. No one said welcome back' or we missed you.' I like the church and people, but they are not outgoing. Any suggestions? I feel really left out because I'm older and don't go to everything they have."
- "In our church, we have a Vietnamese Church and Deaf Church, as well as a new Hispanic Mission. There is now a church started by a group of refugees from Myanmar and in our main congregation refugees from Burundi, Africa. We are delighted that God has brought the mission field right to us, but we still send out teams several times a year. We also have several homeless people who attend regularly. I know that God has opened the doors of our church to the world, and they come. They are all welcomed and helped."
- "Your observations and comparisons of the two churches was very interesting. I've noticed that many churches print notices of their church services but are deficient in a welcoming atmosphere. A sad but funny experience I had once was responding to a church's advertisement for an evening church service. When I arrived, the church was dark and the door was locked. When I later told one who attended there, I was told, Oh, everyone knows you come in the back door.' (The service was held in a back room.) I laughed and decided the church really wasn't serious about reaching the community."
From my own experiences, I still remember talking with someone who visited an area church. The church had a greeting time during the service and everyone greeted each other. Although he stood waiting near some people, no one greeted him. When our children were small, we visited a local church for worship. No one spoke to us the entire time we were in the building. Seventeen years later, we still refer to that church as the "refrigerator" church. On the other hand, I remember a young man (20s) who came into our church one Sunday morning. A couple from our congregation (in their late 60s) moved from where they had been seated and sat with him during the church service to be sure he knew he was welcome and so he didn't have to sit alone.
We often just don't realize how our actions don't exhibit a welcoming spirit. We need to be sure that we are representing Jesus to everyone around us. "What would Jesus do" is more than just a phrase.
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