Reflecting on last week's blog post, I started thinking more about my own experiences with visiting churches and stories I have heard from others over the years when it comes to the people you often engage with in those first few visits. Chances are you might expect some kind of greeter who stands just inside the door of a church that you have to shake hands with. More often than not that is the case, but I have been to churches that do not have any kind of greeter (or they show up just before service starts) and have milled around wondering what to do or where to sit.
When that happens you are bound to run into a person or two who are wondering who you are - and here is where those engagements can become "interesting." So here are some quick thoughts on the types of people that you may meet, but what I have to say at the end of this post is important to remember ...
Negative aspects you might expect:
Stand-offish - don’t sit in my pew
I think most people would assume that when they walk into a church they know that they are likely to end up sitting in "someone's pew seat." Notice how I highlighted "pew." I think churches in most communities still have pews. If you are in a small city you may have a church or two that has replaced the pews with chairs - but the idea is still there of sitting in someone's place.
I mean, when you think about it, how many times have you said "I hope I didn't take anyone's seat" when you meet the pastor of a church you are visiting? It is almost automatic!
The reality is that for the most part, people are glad that you are there. If you offend someone by taking their seat, they are not representative of the church as a whole. So keep that in mind!
You might assume that people in a church (generally speaking) are close minded to new ideas or new things happening. I think the first thing you might want to recognize is that when it comes to practical, material things, the church may not have the funds to meet modern / contemporary preferences for worship. Also, most people in churches (unfortunately) have not learned how to communicate what and why they believe. More often than not, people will say "you should talk to the pastor." My hope is that you will visit a church and speak with a few people and be able to comprehend who has a "servants heart" and seems to be able to give some kind of an account of what God has done in his/her life.
The reality is that most churches have the people that know Jesus and what God has done in their life, but they may not have spoken "their story" in a long time. Hopefully the church you visit has some kind of "fellowship hour" after church so that you can sit with the person who interests you so that you can talk to them about the church and what their particular part has been in that church. I have no doubt that the person would love to sit and talk with you.
You might expect one or two folks to be a little too excited that you are visiting the church. I've actually had someone say, "it is so nice to have a young person here, we would love to get a youth group going." I felt like my time at that church was already planned out! I seem to remember too, a lady almost dragging me to one of those fellowship hours to meet everyone she knew.
The reality is that in most churches, people are not pushy. In fact, they try very hard to be the exact opposite of pushy. They don't want to scare you away!
So here is the thing that I want you to remember if you are visiting a church or various churches. Most people there are on a journey in their faith, and will be at different stages of the journey. It doesn't matter how long a person has been going to the church, what matters is how they've progressed on their journey. What this means is that you may meet someone that has been to the church for a long time, but is still "young" when it comes to understanding the Christian faith. You may meet someone there that has been to the church for only a couple years but seems to have things in order and be further along in their journey.
Now the journey I am talking about is much like the journey of Emmaus. There were two disciples who thought Jesus was dead but they were, in fact, walking with Jesus that whole time and Jesus opened their eyes at the end of the story over a meal. We are all on that journey, and Jesus is opening our eyes in different ways.
Some "weekly" musings from Pastor Dave as he sits on his porch and drinks coffee, thinking about theology and lifting heavy weights. For gymsharks, there is something called "Flex Fridays," where we vainly put up photos of ourselves flexing. So this blog is my attempt to flex my theological muscles through reflection ... get it?