Joe and Ann (not their real names) felt both hurt and shock as the words slammed into their hearing. Sadness fell upon them as they left the meeting that Sabbath morning, never to return. He had lived there since a toddler, she since marrying him some 30 years earlier.
The church was small, always seeking helpers, and both Joe and Ann were willing to step in as teacher, deacon, pianist, elder, just where needed. They were a friendly couple, doing their part in helping the small church thrive.
Now fast forward 18 years.
The church remains small, with only a handful of members. But, they still hold Sabbath services, sometimes with a pastor, sometimes one of the church members filling the pastor’s role.
Never has a church member called on or visited Joe and Ann to ask if they are okay, even though they still live in the same house. No, it’s as if Joe and Ann don’t exist anymore.
But Joe and Ann didn’t give up their faith. They would attend another Adventist church when the weather was fine. But all church options were 40 or so miles distant, making it difficult to traverse on stormy days.
They do “join” church services over the satellite and Internet. They haven’t given up but don’t feel welcomed back at the little church.
How many others across this land feel the same? Maybe past members in my church or even in your church? People who have been hurt and felt not needed or wanted so they stopped attending church. Will you reach out to them with a visit or at least a phone call to say, “We miss you,” to invite them back into the fold? People need to feel welcomed, to feel needed, to find friendship in the church if they are to return.
How are the visitors to your church made to feel welcome? I am reminded of two churches my wife and I visited. You decide which one you would like to attend.
At Church No. 1 with about 400 members, we were greeted by a lady asking us to sign the guest book. She was the only person that morning to speak to us, though a few did smile.
At Church No. 2 with about 300 members, we had hardly entered before several came to welcome us. After we signed the guest book, one of the members started telling us where different Sabbath School classes were. Then she said, “Come with me to my class.” In her class, we were treated like members, included in the discussion, made to feel at home.
Later, before the church service started and after, several others came to welcome us. Walking into the foyer at the close of the service, the pastor warmly encouraged us to join them at the potluck.
I know, were we to move, which church I’d want to join.
By Dick Duerksen
July 06, 2018