A Church and a Bar

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Last week I saw a story on Facebook:

A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone, which rang loudly during the prayer.

After church was over, the pastor scolded him for not turning off his phone before coming into church. A number of worshipers admonished him after the prayer for interrupting the silence.

In addition, the man’s wife kept lecturing him all the way home about his thoughtlessness and insensitivity. He felt ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated.

After that incident, he never again returned to the church.

That same evening, the same man went to a bar. He was still upset, nervous, and trembling. He accidentally spilled his drink on the table and on his lap.

Although the spill wasn’t his fault, he waiter apologized, brought a clean napkin for the man to dry his pants, and politely wiped the spilled drink from the table.

The janitor came and mopped up the liquid that had spilled on the floor.

The lady who managed the bar offered him a replacement drink … at no charge.

The manager also gave the man a huge hug and a peck on the cheek, while saying, “Don’t worry, sir. Who doesn’t make mistakes?”

And guess what? That man has not stopped going to that bar since his experience that night.

The moral of this story is obvious. Whether you’re manager of a bar or pastor of a church, people need and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Demonstrating care and concern for people in, of all places, the church, goes a long way toward encouraging people to return to receive what really counts–proclamation of God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ our Lord.

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Your Thoughts About Church Visitors

Church 1Perspectives articles the past two weeks have dealt with church visitors. Before moving on from this topic, it seems good to share a few responses I’ve received from readers. So here we go:

• Nathan wrote: “I think it is better to think of them (people who come to our churches) as guests rather than visitors. Guests are anticipated, prepared for and welcomed. Visitors are often viewed as an inconvenience.”

• Paul wrote: “This [discussion about church visitors] assumes that there are so many visitors coming to our churches that we need to develop answers to the questions being asked. Many of our churches have very few visitors. We really do need to get out of the church building (rather than expect all the people to come to us) and be the church in the community where people are living. That will help us discover the questions [church visitors are actually asking]!”

• Bill wrote: “Mama-Missouri stands at a crossroads between irrelevancy and connectedness. If we remain staunchly dedicated to being our grandfathers’ church (page 5 and 15), we hasten our demise. If, rather, we seek to connect with the lost, hurting and broken people around us, we might actually come closer to God’s idea of “church” in James 1:27: ”Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

• Paul also wrote: “When they [church visitors or guests] show up, we need to have a group of people (congregation) who are willing to engage with them and all they bring in appropriate ways, with answers and postures and a heart filled with Jesus type love and activity. That means a church engaged with people where they are–the public zone.

“We just are not too good at that. We figure that if we offer enough programs and resources and ‘stuff,’ people will hear about it and then choose what we offer rather than the same choices from other organizations down the street, at their work, with their friends, etc. I am not saying we shouldn’t have stuff happening at church. But relying on that to bring in visitors is probably too optimistic in our world today.

“Actually, what we do at church should probably be focused on developing the faithful to be faithful and faith filled in their communities! [We do well by] using our gathering as a means to an end—being washed by grace and then prepared and motivated to share [that grace] when we get our boots on the ground in the marketplace.”

Thanks for sharing your perspectives! Perhaps this little series of articles will stimulate some reflective thinking and creative acting! The Gospel is too precious to keep to ourselves! As the “This Little Gospel Light of Mine” song says: “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna’ let it shine!”

Let it shine! All the time! Let it shine!

More about Church Visitors

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Last week’s article listed “Nine questions visitors aren’t asking but churches are still trying to answer.” It generated quite a few responses, including several asking for a list of questions church visitors are asking these days.

So here’s a partial list of such questions, some of which were provided by my readers, most of which come from my own experience:

  1. Is the parking lot always this full?
  2. Where are the bathrooms?
  3. Are they clean and will they smell fresh?
  4. Will my young child be well cared for in the nursery and feel loved and safe there?
  5. How long will the worship service last?
  6. Will I be able to understand and follow what goes on in the service?
  7. Does the pastor preach from the Bible and does he really practice what he preaches?
  8. Does he always preach this long?
  9. Does he always preach this well (or poorly)?
  10. For what primary purpose does this church exist?
  11. What is the quality of the children’s ministry?
  12. Will my teenagers be excited about becoming involved here?
  13. Is there a ministry for senior adults?
  14. Do the people here get along with other Christians in the community?
  15. If they have communion today will I be allowed to participate?
  16. Will the time I spend here help me find answers to questions I have about God?
  17. Will the time I spend here help me find answers to questions I have about life?
  18. Would I be proud to invite my friends and family to come to this church with me?
  19. Will I leave here knowing and feeling that I have been in the presence of God?
  20. Will I leave here feeling more guilty than when I came or will I feel forgiven?

Pastors and lay leaders should have conversations about these and other questions visitors to your church are likely to ask. Such conversations are best when respectful and non-accusatory, asked and answered with sincere desire to represent with excellence the God we worship.

Remember last week’s reminder of our responsibility as Christians, stated in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” That’s a huge responsibility and awesome privilege!