Mrs. Anderson was feeble and afraid to meet new people but she made herself get dressed and she drove out to our little church in Ohio years ago. People were kind to her. She felt at home. Later she was saved and baptized. Her daughter and son-in-law and grandson were eventually saved and baptized. She grew to love our church and never missed a service. She had her own little place just inside the back door. She came to every service morning and evening. She grew ill and had to be treated for cancer. We loved her and we prayed for her. When she went to be with the Lord her funeral tent was filled with her friends from the church. She told me she was afraid the first time she visited, but because she received a warm welcome in our little church she is with the Lord today, her family knows the Lord today. I’m so glad someone greeted her warmly that first time she visited our church.
Is Your Church A Welcoming Church?
I have an important question for you. Is your church a friendly church? Careful. Think a little before you answer. In most churches people are friendly with their friends, they are friendly with people they know, but is that the measure of a friendly church?
If a new person came to your church, let’s say a person who was struggling with alcohol abuse or drug addiction, or depression and anxiety, or a difficult marriage, or shame and guilt, or troubled kids, if a person came to Bethel with any of these problems it is unlikely you could tell just by looking at them. I wonder, would they find a friendly welcome or would they see people talking with other people they already know?
Follow Jesus. Help Others Follow Jesus.
Here at Bethel we have a saying; “Follow Jesus and Help Others Follow Jesus.” We are “Jesus People.” We are Christ-followers. But Jesus said something I think we need to think about. It was in his famous Sermon on the Mount:
Jesus spoke to the heart of this: “If you love those who love you what reward o you have. Do not even tax collectors do teh same. And if you free only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47)
A Few Other Important Questions:
Why do you go to church? Do you go to get a blessing, or do you go to get and blessing and be a blessing to others? Do you go to church praying for an opportunity to serve and help others, or are you tempted to just go for what you get out of it? Do you go because you want things for your family? Jesus said he came, not to be served but to serve and to give. If we are following Him we should do the same.
A Friendly Suggestion About Friendliness.
I have a simple suggestion. Here are a couple things you can to help strengthen the culture of Bethel church in the area of warmth and friendliness.
Pray before you leave home for God to give you an opportunity to show warmth to someone you don’t already know. Agree as a family that you want to be a blessing to others every time you attend a service. Set a personal goal to pick out at least one new person a week and learn their name. Sometimes I will walk up to someone I don’t know and will say, “Hey, I’m Ken. I’m sorry but I don’t know your name….” Try this. Ask them a question or two to show kindness and warmth. You might even want to invite them to join you at Culvers or One North.
Let’s be a truly welcoming, truly friendly, loving church. Let’s go out of our way to make new-comers right at home. You never know what people are going through and how important it is to welcome them. Let’s keep working on keeping a culture of warmth and genuine love at Bethel.
It doesn’t take much. You don’t have to meet everybody, but if a number of us would meet at least a few every week, it would go a long way to making Bethel even friendlier and more welcoming than we already are. Who knows what would happen. I’m sure there would be wonderful stories to tell. …and there are many “Mrs. Andersons” out there.