Let me preface this by saying I love my church. I love our community outreach programs, I love our social events, I love the casseroles at the social events — I love all of it.
I have went to my church since the day I was born. I have sat in the same row, shook hands with the same people, and sang the same songs for 18 years. Everyone knows everyone and their first cousin, too — but as you know by some of my other posts — that’s just how small town life works.
I didn’t think much of my routine. From the inside looking out, it appears to be so easy to jump in and get involved. And although I feel like there are always a multitude of opportunities for new folks to participate in, it’s not that simple.
Sunday morning, mom woke up with it on her heart to go somewhere new. We got ready, drove about ten miles past the turnoff for our church, and parked in a parking lot we had only parked in for weddings and showers. Smiling faces greeted us and shook our hands as they handed us a bulletin. We snuck in and sat in the back row. I waved across the room at plenty of familiar faces, I listened as folks I knew sang the morning hymns, I hugged those that knew me and told me I looked “just like my momma”.
Even around those I knew, I still felt out of place. Now that’s nothing against the church — it’s a wonderful church. I thoroughly enjoyed the music, the message, and the company. The point I’m trying to make is that it wasn’t my routine, and it felt so strange. (Even though we all know how I feel about routines.)
Afterwards, when we got back in the car, my mom said why I think it was on her heart that morning to be a visitor: “Now we know how people feel when they visit our church.”
Imagine it: there’s a new face in the pews. They might be nervous they’ve taken someone’s usual spot. In fact, they have taken someone’s usual spot — yours. They have woken up, got dressed in their Sunday best, and drove the distance to be there at that church, when most of the time they sleep in. Maybe they’re there because they were invited, or maybe they were curious. Maybe a baby in the family is being dedicated or maybe they lost someone special and didn’t know where else to turn. But bottom line is they’re new here. Being at that church on a Sunday morning is out of their routine, although it’s exactly in line with yours.
In Luke 14:12-14, it is written, “Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
It never hurts to be hospitable. Chat with them, give them a hug, let them know they’re welcomed. Let them know they’re not just welcomed — they’re wanted. This isn’t something they will assume, it’s something they need to be told.
I wouldn’t have known this if I had stayed in my routine Sunday morning. This is why I visited a new church. This is why you should too.