When I go to people’s houses, I have never entered through someone’s door and have been treated as if I were not there. I have never walked in and not had someone talk to acknowledge or me that I exist. I have never felt like I am an obligation or a bother when I visit with friends or family. I have however felt as if I do not belong in a worship service before. This post is to deal with the issue of family business. This is my experience with the church and their “non family-like” tendencies that I have experienced. It is also a post of encouragement for the church to become a family that acts like a family and not a place where people as though they simply don’t belong.
I remember entering a really large church when I was younger. I guess there would have to be at least 3,5000 people in that service. The band up front was large and in charge. The words were put on large 30×30 screens, which made singing along really easy. It was a beautiful church and the teaching was great. There was only one big problem I had being there: I felt as though I didn’t belong. Can you imagine being in a church with 3,5000 people and not having one person say hi to you at all? While everyone would shake hands with their friends – probably the same people they have been sitting next to for a long time – I sat and wondered if anyone would want to shake mine. After a few moments, I smelled my hands to make sure they were clean; that I had used soap. I had. I think the guy next to me felt obligated to say hi so he shook my hand and attempted to actually show that he was glad that I was there. He even asked my name. As soon as I got out my name, he turned around and said hi to his long-time friends. He didn’t introduce me to them at all. As I left this very large and well-known church, I thought about my experience there. As I said: The teaching was awesome. The worship was great. And, I am sure the people were nice too – I just didn’t get the opportunity to know them at all. Every once in a while I go back to hear the preaching because it is good. I could never be apart of that church though. For a long while, I couldn’t put my finger on my reasoning and logic to the equation.
Not long after that experience, I went to another church where it seemed almost everyone was ready to shake my hand and say hi. At first, I welcomed their hands, thinking that perhaps I had entered a place where I could belong during the service. Everyone was saying, “Praise the Lord” and “God rocks.” It seemed that the handshakes were as far as we were going to get though. No one approached me during the “meet and greet” time, which made me feel once again like I didn’t belong. It seemed once again like I was an obligation to the body of Christ. Maybe I wasn’t but it is hard not to think that way when one is treated this way. What is the deal?
Church should be a place that fosters a family-like atmosphere. It should be a place where guests are honored and fellowship is enjoyed. It should not be a place where cliques are formed and visitors are ignored. To me, and hopefully to others, welcoming a visitor in church is much like welcoming a friend or a guest anywhere else. Why do we think it is okay not to treat our guests as we would anyone who walks through our doors? Why is it okay to shaft others in the body of Christ? Why is it okay to be lazy and not care about others? Where on earth do we get the right to life this way?
For the past five years, I have been asking these questions. So far, the responses have been pretty much the same: “I never saw it that way before. If I would have known, I would have done it differently.” Though at first, I accepted that excuse, I have come to realize that is not an excuse at all. It is unacceptable.
Galatians 6:10 say, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This seems to be a big deal to Paul. We are to welcome all people and “do good” to everyone. I think part of that means welcoming those who are apart of our family and providing the adequate attention and care for others outside of our little circles. In 1 Timothy 5:8, Paul is a little harsher in this respect. He writes, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” I know you and I are not “immediate family” through blood but we are immediate family through Christ. I guess the question we need to ask ourselves then is: Are we doing a good job providing for our family? Are we even living like a family in our churches? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us in our family business? Do we even care about the person sitting next to us? This is a big, big deal.
My home church has encouraged me. Both leaders and churchgoers have welcomed me alike. I think one of the greatest things about our church is that most of those who attend The Well get the family business stuff. I think this is something we do so well. We are far from perfect and have a lot of growing to do as a body, but I think we have the family thing down really well. I don’t like to talk trash on the church because I think we get a bad rap for things that we shouldn’t. But, when it comes to family business, I have to agree sometimes when I hear people say things like, “I didn’t feel like I belonged there.” I don’t know what your church experience has been like. I don’t know what your church is like or if you have never entered a church before. I don’t know if your thoughts about the church are positive or negative and honestly, it doesn’t matter. What ultimately matters is that we are doing the family business thing right. If there is anything we must learn to do well as the body of Christ, it is doing the family business. I hope that we will never have to hear someone say, “I wasn’t really welcomed in that church down the street” or “I wish someone came up to me and said hi.” Let’s learn to do a better job with the family business. Honestly – it is the polite thing to do.