Have you ever had to go ‘church shopping’?
Have you ever moved to a new city and had to visit around for a church?
Probably one of the most important criteria in choosing a new church home (other than doctrine) is the reception we receive as we walk in the front door. Whether a church is a warm and caring fellowship can be determined within five minutes of entering its doors!
Being new in a church where everybody already knows each other can be a lonely experience - particularly if the people in the church are cliquish or exclusive. In most churches the minister will usually ask people to stand and greet each other during the worship service … and folks may smile at someone they don’t know and shake their hand. But as soon as the worship service is over they congregate with their friends and zoom out the door for lunch … leaving the newcomers with the feeling that they are an ‘outsider.’
Breaking into an entrenched group of friends can be nearly impossible. That is why it is important for Christians to make room for guests and seekers. As Christ’s outreach to the world - the CHURCH has an important place in eliminating loneliness. Godly fellowship is an expression of God’s love to His followers. In fact, Jesus told His disciples that He would not leave them ‘lonely’…”And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
If you are comfortable in your church home - - praise the Lord for your friends; BUT don’t forget to reach out to those around you that you don’t know. Welcome the new faces as they get out of their car in the parking lot; help those standing in the church lobby with a ‘deer in the headlight’ look on their face (they’re probably searching for the nursery or a restroom!); make a beeline to guests after the worship services and simply introduce yourself and ask them their name; scoot to the center of the pew and make room for guests to sit next to you.
Your genuine handshake or gentle pat on the back - - your warm smile - - your sweet words of welcome are a reflection of Christ’s love to others.
It is my prayer that churches and body of believers around the world will not be ‘Holy Huddles’ - - but will be a place where the hurting can find healing, the lonely can find friendship, and the lost can find the Lord!
I’m reminded of the words of one of my favorite songs about the ‘Church’ … “This must be the place where a broken heart can mend. This must be the place where an outcast finds a friend.”
Dennis Wheeler is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with his weekly column The Focus. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.