Yesterday, we had our Ignite Planter’s meeting in Joliet. As the meeting started, I used the verse from John 4 where Jesus says, “Open your eyes and look to the fields, they are ripe for harvest.” Then I told the story of my friend coming to church that I began to blog about earlier in the week. Let me describe the rest of my experience in church that day.
When my friend entered the door, I was there to greet her. I thanked her for coming and then took her around the lobby, introducing her to some of my friends. Each of them greeted her warmly and thanked her for coming to Adventure. I showed her around the facility to make her feel at home (offices, children’s area, bathrooms, etc). Then we walked into the auditorium and she saw someone on the worship team that she knows. That person came up to her and told her it was good to see her at church. When we sat down, another friend she knew came and sat on the other side of her. This friend said, “I normally sit over there, but I saw you here, can I sit with you?” I took the program and told my friend some of the things that she could expect during the service (this was her first time in church). During the service I talked her through what was going on so she would feel comfortable.
When the service ended, several people talked with my friend and thanked her again for coming. I asked her if she had a Bible at home and when she said “No”, I asked if I could give her one. (I had one out in my car.) I gave it to her and showed her a good place to start reading (the book of Mark) and then said that I would be happy to answer any questions she might have at any time.
The next day, she texted me and expressed gratitude for inviting her, telling me that she had felt loved and welcomed. I glad she felt this way, because I wanted to make her first church experience a positive one. I know she can find the guidance that comes from knowing Jesus from the Bible, but I also know that the journey is much better in community with others in the church. I also know she felt this way because I spent time giving her the attention that she deserved. While it was true this time, I also know that there are many newcomers to the church that I don’t treat as well as I did my friend. And that’s just not right!
Thinking about this, I determined that I am going to make a better effort to be ready to greet people who are new to the church with more attention and care. I challenged our church planters to try and think like people who are coming to church for the first time (this is a hard exercise for many of us). Every church can make their services more guest friendly, but doing so takes a willingness to look at what we do through the eyes of a newcomer.
This experience had a profound effect on me, I think it will help me be a better follower of Jesus and a better help to those who are on the front lines of ministry: planters and pastors. Let’s keep our eyes open, many times receptive people are right around us, just waiting to be asked. Extend the invitation and then be there to help them feel at home.