Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Unwanted in Church

During this time of ministry transition, Laura and I are attending a different church each week. It is amazing how much you can glean about effective ministry, both positive and negative, by being "the pastor in the pew" for an extended time-frame. This past Sunday we learned a lot on the "negative" side.

We were attending church in northern New Jersey. The parents of a bride that I married a few years back lives over by the Jersey shore. They were going to be away for a week and invited Laura and I to get away for a few days using their beautiful home. It was a wonderful few days for us. When Sunday morning came I found a church on the internet whose website seemed very attractive. I have to be honest, it ended up being one of those very rare Sundays for us where the service was not a blessing.

When we arrived, there was no signage at all to tell us which doors to use. We had no idea where to go and no one else was arriving at the time that we could follow. Fortunately, we guessed right. When we entered the doors a lady who was serving as a greeter stuck a bulletin out in our direction and said, "Here's a bulletin." There was no smile. There was no greeting - just a, "Here's a bulletin."

We stood in the back of the auditorium waiting for the Sunday School class to finish. As we stood there literally dozens of people walked by us. Not only did nobody talk to us, no one even glanced our direction. It was pretty obvious that we were guests by the way we were very "under-dressed." I was 1 of only 2 men I saw that was wearing jeans. However, we did get a few obligatory "handshakes" and "hellos" during the "greeting" time in between two of the songs.

Overall we felt very unwelcomed and unwanted. It is true what they say. First impressions are vital. A first-time guest usually decides within the first 10 minutes of pulling into the church parking lot if they will return or not - even before ever hearing the message. For us last Sunday, the first 10 minutes of our visit at this New Jersey church gave us little to no motivation to return.

But if we were not convinced to avoid returning to this church in our first 10 minutes, the message would have sealed the deal that this was not the church for us. The pastor preached principles with a few scattered verses thrown in but it appeared that the main thrust of his message was to preach against a list of activities that made one "ungodly." In a 40 minute time-frame he preached strongly and loudly against the following:





Gothic Dress

Contemporary Christian Music



But to our amazement, he even preached against having visitors in church. I am not kidding. Now it made sense why we felt like the proverbial "elephant in the room" when we arrived at church. It appears that this church doesn't welcome visitors because they really don't want them. I wish I could tell you I was exaggerating but I'm not.

But even on this Sunday morning in which we saw so much negative about church, God still allowed us to see His fingerprints. During the offertory the piano player played the old worship song entitled, "In His Time." This is a very special song to Laura and I for reasons that I will write about someday in a future blog posting. But it is special enough that we had the song sung at our wedding over 23 years ago. There was one other time in our lives a little over 6 years ago that God again used that song to speak volumes to my wife and I. And even while sitting in church last Sunday in New Jersey feeling very unwelcomed and unwanted, it was as if God was saying to us, "I still want you!"

In His time
In His time
He makes all things beautiful
In His time


Alisa said...

WOW! just googled "In His Time" Not sure if I have ever heard it before, but if so I heard it a fresh today. Thank you again! Praying you do not fear for God is with you. Do not be dismayed for He IS YOUR GOD. He will strengthen you and help you, He will uphold you with His righteous right hand. In due time!

Pastor Scott said...

Thanks so much, Alisa! Blessings to your family!!

Mark Freeman said...

I always love how God speaks through songs and lyrics! In His time is a simple but wonderful song.

While it is a bit shocking to see a church like this, Scott, it is more the rule than the exception. That is why some churches have such great success - because so many others fail to be welcoming.

Pastor Scott said...

I think you just may be right, Mark. A lot of churches talk about reaching out but few really are genuine in meeting people right where they are at so that they can help to move them to where God wants them to be. Great to hear from you. We sure appreciate the encouragement that we have received from your family!