January is a time when we’re more likely to interact with new people in our church building: more visitors and guests, more of our community, more people who’ve just moved to our city, more folks looking for a church home.
When you’re in a bigger church, those visitors and guests don’t always stick out. It’s not always obvious. It’s easy to mistake that person you don’t know or that person you’ve never seen before as a visitor when, in reality, that person is a 15-year member. It’s embarrassing to ask an unfamiliar face if they’re visiting and they inform us they’ve been coming to GCR longer than we have. It’s awkward. So, we’re paralyzed and we don’t do anything. When we’re unsure, we play it safe and don’t do anything at all. And we wind up with a dozen visitors at Abuelo’s saying, “That’s not a very friendly church.”
Now, long time GCR members don’t help when we become offended if another member doesn’t know our name. The way to respond to another member who mistakes you for a visitor is not, “I’ve been going to GCR for 27-years! How long have you been here?”
If we’re going to be a welcoming church in the name and manner of Jesus, we’ve got to first get over ourselves. This is a big church, and that’s okay. You can’t be embarrassed about not knowing someone’s name. And you can’t be offended if somebody doesn’t remember yours. GCR is not a 150-member church. It’s a big church, and that’s okay.
In fact, let’s just make that something we say to each other when we find ourselves in that awkward position of mistaking a member for a visitor. Both people in the awkward situation need to look at each other with love in their eyes and patience in their hearts and say, “It’s a big church, and that’s okay.”
We want to be a friendly and welcoming church this January, this whole year. And it will take this kind of intentionality to pull it off.