When I first became a Christian, I’d been told you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. That piece of news was a great relief to me, as I had clear preconceptions that church people must be weird. Not that I’d had much exposure to church – my preconceptions were utter ignorance, which was soon exposed when I actually met some church people.
I remember walking away from church one night, early in the piece when I’d decided to check it out, and someone called out “See you Ray”. Someone else took up the chorus and, in the end, about three or four people said a similar thing as I walked through the crowd to the bus stop. It was at that point the thought occurred to me that these people were actually quite caring and friendly, and maybe it was worth coming back.
Since then, I’ve discovered the highs and lows of belonging to church and the great privilege it is to belong to God’s family. Not to get me salvation – what I was told is true, you don’t have to go to church to be saved. But to give me opportunities to be what God has called me to be, a loving member of his body.
They say that it’s in the first few minutes of someone visiting a church that they decide whether or not it’s somewhere they want to connect. That may not be the case for everyone, but what it does tell us is how important a friendly word and a kind welcome is to the work of the gospel long term.
If I’d have had a bad experience at church, I may have ended up a lone ranger Christian, stunted in my growth and learning, and crippled in my opportunities to serve Jesus. What excites me is the way a friendly word can be used by God’s spirit to move people into rich fellowship and service.
This Saturday at 2:00pm in the small hall we’ll be doing some training in how to effectively welcome people to church. It’s something all of us need to know, whether we’re on a roster or not.
I warmly invite you to come along – it’s a ministry we all need to be well equipped in.
“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:5)