Lessons from My Church Visit

I visited another church in the area this past Sunday morning. On vacation, but not out of town, I wanted to see how someone else does “church.” Here are a few things I learned:

1. It’s tough to go to a church you’ve never been to before. Even though I’m a pastor and have been going to church all my life I found myself a little nervous getting ready to leave the house. I think Christians should understand how much courage it takes someone, who doesn’t go to church regularly, to walk through the doors of a strange place and to go through the foreign (to them) experience of worship.

2. There is a difference between greeting and welcoming. As I walked through the front doors, which were opened already, I was greeted by a kind woman, “Good morning, glad you are here today.” I walked through the somewhat crowded lobby looking for a sign to the worship space. As I entered the worship space about 5 minutes early I was handed a bulletin, “Good morning.” I found a seat on an empty row, which wasn’t hard since at this time 95% of the people were still in the lobby. That was the end of my welcome.

3. During one of the early songs there was a welcome time, though I couldn’t hear it because of poor sound mixture. The row in front of me turned and each offered a smile and a handshake with a “Good morning.” They were the last people to speak to me. I will say that people were talking to those around them in pleasant tones with smiles on their faces, but there wasn’t much welcome for me. I don’t think this is unusual for churches. We are often much more friendly to one another than to unknown guests who haven’t come with someone. And we will respond to questioners that we are a “friendly church.” Maybe we should look at our friendliness from the perspective of the unattached visitor.

4. I enjoyed the music and the preaching was great, a wonderful message on the importance of Scripture in our lives drawn from Psalm 119. It was odd though that on this Sunday it appeared that only about 10% of the congregation brought their Bibles. Perhaps that was a holiday weekend anomaly.