Summer seems to be a time of year when we’re more likely to interact with new people in our church building: more visitors, more vacationers, more of our community, more people who’ve just moved to our city, more folks looking for a church home.
We can be tempted to not personally welcome visitors in our church building for fear that visitor may actually turn out to be a 15-year member. We’re embarrassed when we ask an unfamiliar face if they’re visiting and they inform us they’ve been at this church longer than we have. It’s awkward. So we’re paralyzed and we don’t do anything. And an hour later we’ve got twenty visitors at Cracker Barrel saying, “That’s not a very friendly church.”
Long time 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 coming here 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 OK.
You can’t be embarrassed about not knowing someone’s name. How could you possibly know everybody? It’s unrealistic. And you can’t be offended if somebody doesn’t know your name. How could everybody know you? Why should everybody know you? It’s sinful, really. This is a not a 200-member church. It’s a big church; and that’s OK.
In fact, here at Central, we’re trying to make that something we say 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 OK.”
We did it together this past Sunday and we’re going to do it again this coming Sunday. We want to be a friendly and welcoming church this summer. And it’s going to take all of us to pull it off.
I usually say it’s all the drugs and alcohol I did when I was younger. While it’s true for me that may not be the case for everyone but it can spark a conversation or just lead to an even more awkward silence.