Monday, September 8, 2014
The boy on the back row
It turns out it was his second time at church, and he is a new student at the nearby Bible college.
This may come as a surprise to those who know me well, but I have a really hard time approaching visitors or new people at church. It is kind of dumb, since it is a big part of my job to greet people walking into the Emergency Department at the hospital I work at, and offer my help, and engage people in conversation.
But church? That is different for some reason. Maybe part of it is because I am not getting paid for it. And I am the only person to do it at work while on my shift. At church, there are a lot of other people to welcome visitors.
But what if everyone was like me in that regard? There was a song out in the late 80's or early 90's that asked the question "What kind of church would my church be, if every member was just like me? How many souls would be saved today, if it all depended on what I say?" That is truly a scary thought in general, but if everyone at my church was just like me, how many would seek out visitors and make them feel welcome. (If they were all like me, at least everyone would always be on time!) At times, when a visitor or new person walked right by me, I have managed to tell them it was nice to have them, and to come back. I just did that with a new college kid two Sundays ago, He was walking past me, and I managed to, then felt dumb afterwards. Which is dumb.
I have been at churches before where they singled out the visitor and sang something like "There's welcome here, there's a welcome here, there's a Christian welcome here.....". That makes one cringe and want to hide under the pew or go running out of the church. And it is easy to welcome someone like that, but on an individual level..... not so much,
A lot of my problem stems from a life long poor self esteem. Granted, it isn't as bad as it used to be, but it is still bad and influences me from speaking to visitors more often. "What if I say something dumb? They are young, maybe a younger person should make them feel welcome (that did pop into my head last night) someone else will do it, I wouldn't know what to say - should I introduce myself - then I'd feel really stupid...."
And yet, if everyone had those thoughts, and if everyone sat back waiting for someone else to make the visitors welcome.......no one would ever make anyone feel welcome. Well, the pastor and his wife would, but that is part of their job........ not part of mine.
Or is it? It is so easy to sit in the pew and let everyone else do things that they are more qualified in doing than I am. And really, there are more qualified people to do everything in my church, even greet visitors. We even have a welcoming committee who stands at the door before church and Sunday School on Sunday mornings to greet everyone. (No, they don't get paid.... I checked into that already)
That may be the poorest excuse for not greeting visitors, or doing other things in the church. It's not my job. Words that should never be uttered in church.
I have blogged about this before, and resolved to do better, and yet I haven't. But then I never have been good at keeping resolutions.
I have been a visitor in churches before, and it feels good to have someone stop by where I am sitting and welcome me to the church. Knowing that, why is it so hard for me to do it at my church.
A Facebook friend posted a link to a great blog post about being comfortable. And it applies here. It is definitely out of my comfort zone to welcome people to my church, but God doesn't want us to always stay in our comfort zone. If we did, nothing would ever get done for Him or for the church. People constantly do things out of their comfort zone for God, so why should I be any different? Why should I be the one who can sit by and warm my pew? (I AM really good at pew warming, but you can't get paid for that either)
I have told the story before, but it bears repeating. Some years back, a young man was at the end of his rope, and walked into a Christian bookstore, hoping someone would talk to him. He wondered around for a while, and no one approached him to see if he needed anything - and he did. He needed someone to listen, and didn't get it. He went back home, wrote a suicide note, and took his own life.
In no way am I excusing his suicide, but how sad. And what if that was my church, or your church? What if someone slipped in who was at the end of their rope, and left without anyone speaking to them? It could happen.
Let's all be more friendly and welcoming to visitors and new people in our churches. And don't wait for someone else to speak to the people on the back row, or wherever they sit.