Being in a new state and city, makes it necessary for me to explore churches. I am attempting to find a new “home” church. This Sunday and the last, I visited two churches on my own.
Visiting a new church on your own isn’t the most fun thing in the world. In fact, it’s quite uncomfortable, awkward, and scary. No matter how much you know people don’t go to church to judge, you can’t help but fear judgement or just loneliness.
So here goes my tale of two churches (Dickens is my favorite author just in case you didn’t get the reference):
Last week I went to a church I thought I was called to. Why did I think that you ask? I randomly stumbled upon it online and really like the webpage. I felt like God wanted me to go there, and perhaps, for some reason He did. So, I embarked on the adventure to go to a church all by myself.
It all looked extremely inviting. Not too big, not too small. There were children and families playing outside. There was a lobby with coffee and people chatting. The person at the door said welcome, but that was it. There was a connection room, so I went in there to “connect”. Now there were two people in there, obviously volunteers, with nothing to do who saw me come in. Not only did they not say hi, they didn’t even smile. They essentially ignored me. Despite my lost look, and my staying in the room for quite a few minutes looking at a wall of small groups. Great job connection room!
I sat down next to a young lady. I talked to her, I initiated conversation, asked her about herself. She was a young college student, so sure, maybe not so confident, but she never once asked me one question about myself. I left disappointed to say the least. I felt like writing this strongly worded facebook status about how horrible it is to go to a church and not be accepted. How we can’t do that, and dear churchgoers be friendly!!!! Especially since on that same day, I also went to Walmart and felt more welcomed there, as a guy came up and talked to me about Arizona and such.
On to Church adventure #2, today:
I almost didn’t go to church today. I was unmotivated, but someone sort of reminded me to go. The church I went to today was a bit larger than last week’s. I walked in and didn’t necessarily get connected in any way. I had a feeling this would be a repeat of last week.
I sat down on my own on the edge of the aisle by myself. This time I didn’t have anyone to prod with questions, which was fine because I came late. The music was a bit concertish to me, lots of flashy images on the screen, loud loud music, all a bit of a show.
Then we were told to hold hands for the Lord’s prayer. I was like, “What the heck?!” The person next to me hesitantly reached out for my hand. I looked to my left and there was a guy across the aisle in a row all on his own. I smiled at him and took his hand.
And that’s when it began not to matter how welcomed I was because that guy sitting a lone, was so grateful for my kindness of including him. I invited to sit with me, he didn’t do it, but he was grateful again and again and again. So genuinely touched by my barely even saying how are you.
I don’t know if I’ll go back to that church or not and honestly, my emotions will probably change from week to week, but I did learn something valuable today.
Last week, church was all about me. I was ready to preach about how all churches should be welcoming, all churches should connect to new people, etc. I was really perturbed by my experience. Though I was friendly to that college girl, I walked out with a bad attitude about the Lord’s house.
This week, I appreciated how much church is not about me, ever. Yes, the Lord spoke to me through the music and the sermon, but when my interest went from myself, to the new guy in the aisle next to me, it became all so different. I love the Lord, I am secure in Him, so no matter where I go to church, I should never stop being kind, loving, and friendly, even if others do not do it back. This way the Lord can use me for people like this lonely guy.
But, I must leave one message for all churchgoers (sorry couldn’t help it). Y’all, I have been at my home church in Arizona for 17+ years. I am fairly secure and comfortable there. That’s just it though…. I am comfortable, you are comfortable, all of us are comfortable and our home churches. It’s a bad thing! That is, it’s a bad thing if we do not use it for good. A lot of us go to church every Sunday, serve in our areas, hear the sermon, sing with our hands lifted up, maybe say hello to someone when the pastor tells us, but do you go out of your way to make a stranger welcome? Do you ever see a new face and go up to them immediately with a smile and ask them how they are?
I know I don’t, because I’m so comfortable where I am at, I am too afraid to move out of that comfort zone to make it comfortable for others. I am afraid, someone will judge me, that person might not even be new, they might not want me to say hi, they might think I am awkward, or aggressive. NO WAY GUYS! A new person needs someone to say hello and reach out……. it makes all the difference!!!
So if your comfortable, uncomfortable, new, a member, young, old, you have a job to do on the next Sunday at church. Be friendly, welcoming, to everyone! Step out of that little safe place you are in. Even if it is a small step, like just saying hi to more people than you usually do! The Lord will use it miraculously!