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Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 3

Several years ago Kristen and I visited a church steeped in the Reformed tradition. We knew they would enthusiastically celebrate Reformation Sunday. We fully expected to hear a stirring rendition of "A Mighty Fortress." Surely the sermon would be about justification by faith. We were excited to attend!

We arrived about 10 minutes early (most visitors arrive early), walked through the lobby and past many "holy huddles" into the sanctuary. No one greeted us except the usher who said, "Good morning," and handed us a bulletin. We sat down in a small but pretty sanctuary with about 50 others. No one spoke to us until a gentleman approached. He didn't introduce himself. He merely asked, "Are you visiting this morning?" I stood and said, "Yes," and introduced myself. He promptly told me that we could not take communion because neither of us were members of the church. That was it.

We couldn't wait to leave.

Out of courtesy we stayed. The sermon was decent. The liturgy was nice. But they sang a different (and far inferior, in my opinion) arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress." And we felt unwelcome.

We will never visit there again.

From countless interviews with church visitors Dr. Thom Rainer tells us (Becoming A Welcoming Church, p. 18-20) that the worst part of a visitor's experience generally occurs right before the worship service begins. It happens when they sit in the sanctuary or auditorium and no one speaks to or sits with them: "That, in essence, is one of the surprises we heard from guests. Even in incredible churches, very few members make the effort to greet and speak to someone already seated before the service begins. And frankly, most church members don't ever go sit with guests."

No one sat with us either. But I will give them credit for one thing: someone did speak to us. We just didn't like what he had to say.

Let's be a welcoming church!

Posted by Jim Bachmann