From the Pastor Welcome! You’re Home

Welcome! You’re Home

I’m sure everyone has a story of attending church somewhere for the first time!

As church “professionals,” our family has often been called to assess congregational situations and provide solutions to help with church growth or the healthy functioning of the church. Our training enables us to recognize potential challenges to the ministry or how a visitor walking into a church may feel. Some churches know how to welcome and greet newcomers with warmth and assimilate them into the church family. Others, sadly, with discomfort! Chances are, if visitors feel awkward or unwelcome, they won’t return. Remember, attending church is often like attending someone else’s family reunion!

Two extreme examples stand out in my mind. The first was visiting a megachurch to discern what makes the church grow. We placed ourselves strategically to enjoy the widely advertised and promised “warm welcome.”

We waited and waited. But the warmth never materialized. Instead, ushers hurried us along with the swarm of people. Or ignored us as preparations for the next service precluded any friendliness or the chance to get to know others.

Another church experience was entirely different. While in another city, we found an English-speaking church to attend and soon discovered we were their first visitors in a long while. A very long while. This tiny group wasn’t quite sure what to do with us. We had increased attendance by about 40 percent. The situation was awkward.

The worship service began, and then it was time for Communion. The church members went up front to stand in a circle and partake from the same cup, passing it from one person to the next.

In his ardent desire to be welcoming, the pastor insisted we join them up front. Even in the best circumstances, I’m not a massive fan of the common cup. (There’s another side to this story that I will share later!) Uncomfortably, we went forward to join the group.

So what can we all learn from experiences of attending other churches?

It’s simple. Our church must be a place of love and light, not cold, awkward, or pretentious. People need to feel genuinely welcomed and not forced to participate in any aspect of the worship service unless they choose to do so.

Throughout the week, most of us face work challenges and, as ex-pats, in environments that may feel unfriendly and uncomfortable. At church, we need to know that the moment we walk through the door, we will be welcomed and experience the genuine love of Christ. When we enter the church, we should never have to ask ourselves who will ignore us or give us the cold shoulder. We should not dread going to church! The church’s promise should be to make you happy to be “home.” Regardless of country, we are a family knit together in the bond of Christ.

It’s in loving and serving each other that we grow stronger. As we praise God and pray for each other, finding out how to fill any needs, we will increase our joy and feel Christ’s pleasure in our lives.

The church is where we are healed and made whole, and our spiritual tank is filled with Christ-centered messages that enable us to face the week ahead. We need a church that never compromises on the Truth but celebrates the life-giving Word of God.

When we walk out of the church doors on Sundays, may we know that Christ’s powerful Spirit undergirds us and that we have a loving family who has our backs, to whom we can turn whenever we are in need. In turn, may we be the joy-filled lighthouse that the Holy Spirit uses to draw people to Jesus, walking alongside them and inviting them to join a loving church family.

A cheerful hello and a warm smile are the least we can do to welcome all who come through our church doors. And if going to church isn’t a regular habit for us, we are missing out on so much: letting the word of Christ dwell and comfort us, being Christ’s hands and feet, prepared to serve others, and as we sing praises and thank God for his gifts, having the ability to stand firmly in the truth of the Gospel.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. -Colossians 3:16

-Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

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