Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Going to Church Can Be Hard

"Mom, I don't want to go to church," comes the whining statement of the son. "The sermons are boring and the people don't like me."

"But you must go, son,"is the mother's reply.

"Why must I go to church?"

"First, because you are forty years old and you should know better and, second, because you are the pastor!"

I am a pastor and I go to church every week. I was on vacation last week and visited a church. I like doing so because I need to know what it is like to come to a new church.

Every week people visit who have never come to my church. Many of them are looking for a church home. They have tried others and have finally arrived at Thalia Lynn. I identified with them as I visited a new church this past Sunday.

We didn't know where to park in the new church. My wife and I looked for visitor parking. We didn't find any so we parked as close as possible. We were very conscious of anyone who looked our way. It wasn't a large church so we thought we must stick out like a sore thumb.

Of course, we didn't know where to go once we entered the building. There were people who opened the door and gave us an order of worship but we were very self aware that we looked like people who didn't know where they were going. Fortunately, we discovered the sanctuary within a few minutes.

We sat in a pew with hopes we were not sitting in the wrong place. Many people sit in the same seat every week. We feared being asked to move if we were sitting in someone' s seat.

The one welcoming the congregation asked the visitors to remain seated while the members stood. We were identified and given a visitor's card to fill out. With card in hand we were invited to stand as many came to greet us.

The service was pleasant. The sermon was good. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. This service was blended. There was nothing there to be offended by nor to dislike.

The service ended with announcements. We didn't know anything about the church so many of them didn't make any sense to us. A couple joined the church and the interim pastor said he was going to lunch with them. I thought, "Does he do this with everyone who joins?" This may be an incentive for joining.

We left like lightning after the benediction. We were afraid people would stop to talk with us. We didn't want the questions we expected. (Are you new in the area? Is this your first time here? etc.) We just didn't want to waste their time since we weren't really prospects. No one stopped us.

This visit was good for me. I was reminded of all the feelings we have when we enter a church we have never attended. They didn't keep me from attending but they were uncomfortable. Just think about it. You enter a place where you know no one and don't know where to go. You sing songs you don't know. You are afraid you will do something wrong.

These feelings are the payments you make in advance to find a good church home. I think the reward is worth the sacrifice. I urge everyone looking for a church to suck it up and find one.

I learned something else that was also valuable. I made no connection with the people and would not have returned for a second visit. This had nothing to do with the sermon, music or my uncomfortable feelings. We all need a relationship with someone to be drawn back.

I know it is hard to go to a new church.

No comments: