From the Pastors' Desks

Islands in Fellowship

9

Earlier this month, Joanne and I had the pleasure of visiting a sister OPC denomination.  I always enjoy visiting a church where I am not preaching and not known.  It frees me to just “be a visitor” and observe a church from that perspective.

The church we visited had a nice-looking building on a busy road.  Great visibility and the grounds looked well kept. A greeter at the door said “Hi” and handed us a bulletin.  We made our way into the sanctuary and enjoyed a wonderful service.  The congregation sang well, the message was moving. The Pastor showed a real love for the congregation and the gospel. 

But, if I was visiting in truth, I’m not sure I would go back.  The reason?  No one reached out to us.  We hung around in the foyer for about 20 minutes following the service.  I was waiting to give my greetings to the pastor. During that time, I noticed that people would say “hi” to me if I said it first.  But no one followed that up with any attempt at a conversation.  The congregation seemed friendly enough – everyone was talking to someone.  But no one was talking to me.  Or to Joanne – which was REALLY surprising.  She’s like the most pleasant, easily approachable person I know! But there we were – a little island in a sea of conversation.

I say all of this not to cast reproach on this congregation. I think it’s a very good church.  And our experience may well have been an anomaly.  But it made me think about Harvest.  I hope our visitors never feel like islands in the middle of our fellowship. 

An online Harvest friend sent me an article by Matt Mullinix, in which he addresses just this issue. 

“Most of us have visited a church at some point in time. For me, especially when looking for a church while a seminary student, I asked myself three things:

  1. Did I hear the gospel?
  2. Did the church lead a God-centered worship service?
  3. Did anyone greet or speak to me after the service?

While the first two points are usually out of our control, we can control the third one when someone visits our church.”

Yep, that’s it.  Could we agree together to do all that we can do to make sure that our visitors feel loved and valued? 

How could we do that?

  • Take responsibility for the visitors who worship near you. Be ready to help in any way. Make a point to approach them immediately following the service.
  • Practice greeting and talking with people you don’t recognize. Every time.  I realize, with our current growth, that it’s hard to distinguish between visitors and new members (or long-term visitors).  I routinely start my conversation with “Have we met yet?”  No one seems to mind – unless I met them just five minutes ago. Other than that – people are very kind and forgiving. 
  • Show genuine interest. Value the opportunity you have to encourage a new brother or sister in Christ.  Your love for them really does make a difference!
  • Find ways to include regular visitors into your Harvest “life”. Invite them to your home for a meal. Or to your small group Bible study. Or for an outing with the kids. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to add “something more”.  Anything you do in your normal “Harvest life” is an opportunity to invite someone along.

We have an exciting opportunity to bless people in Jesus’ name.  He has graciously reached out to us and invited us into His forever family.  We get to share that love and grace with every person that walks through our doors. Isn’t that wonderful?!   See you on Sunday!

 

In His Service,

Pastor Dale

 

Recommendations from Pastor Dale

How Afghan Pastors Reflect on God’s Sovereignty
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I would urge you to read this report of “How Pastors in Afghanistan Reflect on God’s Sovereignty”. We have so much to learn from these brave brothers. Please read it and then pray for our brothers and sisters who find their lives in peril.

9 Comments

Well said, Carol! Thank for participating in the discussion. Sounds like every church could grow in this area. We get so used to our own surroundings that we forget what it was like to attend for the first time. It's such a rich opportunity to really bless people!
What Lorrell said! We go to the same church, I love our church, have many friends there & am engaged in several ministries. For those of us who fall into the connected category, we need to make it our heartfelt duty to welcome the strangers in our midst. They may be seekers, new in town, returning to church, burned out or disillusioned with a previous church. It does NOT matter why they have showed up in our church, let’s all of us be a welcoming committee, save the conversations with established friends for later.
"An alone person in our gathering is an emergency." -- author Rebecca McLaughlin. https://twitter.com/RebeccMcLaugh/status/1125001173570859008?s=19
Great reminder! I do want to report that I talked with a visitor two weeks ago and was blown away by the friendly welcome he and his wife received when they worshipped with us. It was the elder at the door that made the first impression on him. It was more than a handshake. Questions asked, ask for names, where you from, genuine interest. It continued right on until they reached their seat. Afterwards, more people came and introduced them. They both were just so blown away. He also said it was a great message. :)
This taught me to reflect on my own way of meeting visitors or just new members. I need to do a better job. I can’t depend on others to welcome unknown people and new members. Thanks for the challenge c.
Thanks for encouragement be a friend from each of yours comment.
So true in many seemingly vibrant churches. Even for some longtime members. Cliches and "in crowds"
Thank you Janna for commenting. This is a great reminder. I hope to grow in this myself too, and then also work with a team to make sure we notice the islands out there rather than being drawn to our own safe conversation spots. Being perceptive and noticing who is isolated is half the battle.
Janna, thanks for sharing that. Man - that is exactly what we want to avoid. I'm so sorry. For her and for us. Just shows we all can do better. Thanks for passing that along.
I’m so glad you wrote this. As a long time Harvest member, I’ve always viewed us as more friendly than the average church. I was taken aback in a conversation with a friend who visited on Sunday evenings for about six weeks. She told me that during that time, only One person spoke to her, apart from the handful of us she already knew. I was heartbroken to hear her experience and it was a great reminder that we have a lot of room to grow in this area., that I personally have a lot of room to grow in this area.

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