If you’ve been in worship at MBBC over the last month or so, you’ve surely noticed the number of new faces that have come our way. That’s actually something of a trend that happens in most churches each summer. People make transition to a new area and among other things they start to look for a church.
More than likely, you’ve been a part of our church for so long that you have forgotten what it’s like not to have a church family to whom you can relate. But imagine going to a new place and not knowing anyone. Consider the anxiety that comes from not having a place where you can be strengthened and inspired, encouraged and supported for the challenges life throws at us all. We may read about how in most places church attendance is nowhere near the levels it was 20 or 30 years ago, and that is certainly true for us. But it still remains the case that folk want a place where they can land when life comes barreling at them in fast and furious fashion.
Remarkably, not every church is prepared for this rush of new faces. Some churches even act as if guests are something of an intrusion. Suffice it to say that those churches that feel and act that way do not have a very bright future. Thus the question becomes, “What kind of church do we want our church to be?” Do we want it to be a destination church, or do we want it to be a place where people slip in and slip back out, never disturbing our status quo?
If we desire to be a place where people can call home, then it’s best we be intentional about it. Here are some suggestions. (1) Be looking for new faces and when you see them, make sure you give them a warm greeting. (2) Let them know that nothing would please you more than helping them get connected to our congregation in meaningful ways. (3) Show genuine interest in their stories and be as positive as you can about what they share with you. (4) Introduce them to others with whom you may think they might have something in common, and by all means, make sure they get the chance to meet members of our ministerial staff.
Think about it this way. You’ve likely been in a plane that has had to circle an airport when things have become stormy on the outside looking for a weather “window” in which to land. Needless to say, those times are not peaceful for the plane’s passengers. So, understand that in some way every new person who comes in the doors of our church is likewise experiencing some measure of existential turbulence and is looking for a place to set down his or her soul in order to experience God’s rest.
Let’s therefore not simply expect guests to show up; let’s anticipate them doing so. After all, there is a vast difference between those two. Expectation doesn’t quite measure up to anticipation and it most definitely comes up short in terms of attitude and enthusiasm.
The church of the future will surely be a place where connections happen seamlessly and relationships develop naturally. As our church prepares to mark 75 years and then to move forward into the next season of church life, there’s no reason why we can’t be even more that kind of church, showing God’s love and making our church a place where everyone truly belongs.
“For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20b).