One Step Closer to Finding a Church Home

by Terry Wilhite

For the past two months I've taken you on a journey as my family and I have searched for a church in a city where we have been strangers. We have literally experienced the good, the bad and, unfortunately, the ugly of being a church visitor. In the two previous columns, I believe I've clearly established the fact that for many years, nobody has been guiltier that I have been in gathering in his "holy huddle" at church, leaving visitors pretty much on their own to find a new church home. Lately, I've seen church in a whole new light as a visitor and I have asked the Lord to forgive me for being so wrapped up in myself that I've not reached out to offer visitors a warm welcome. We haven't become members of a church family in our new location yet, but let me share with you what has impressed us about the congregation where most likely we'll transfer our membership. First, the people genuinely care. The love that they display is not superficial. It is Christ-centered love and because of that, it is difficult to describe to you in seminar fashion exactly what I mean. Further, the people aren't knocking on my door for my tithe or for my talent, such as they are. They have no idea how little or how much I've served the Lord. Their love is unconditional. We've filled out the infamous visitor's card and as a result, people have called us on the telephone, e-mailed us and come to our home to visit. Please be sure you hear this: They've come offering their love and their friendship in whatever manner we might need, not because it's Monday night visitation or "we sure are trying to increase our attendance on Sundays." What they have displayed can't be taught or caught. Each of the people who have come into our living room has had a glow about him/her. I'd venture to guess that they've never been to a "How to Greet a Visitor" class, but I am certain that they have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It shows on their faces! Quite frankly, it's been one of the most refreshing experiences I've had in a long time. Who wouldn't want what these people have and want to be where they congregate? Further, despite my immense desire to contribute musically in a church, do you know what is the greatest importance to me? Our kids! McDonalds figured it out a long time ago. Take care of the children and the parents will come. Invitations to join the Children's Choir, calls to our house to ensure that we knew the time and directions to the backyard swim party for the children's choir kickoff bash, for example, have meant volumes to me, my wife, and especially our boys. Secondly, the people have "held our hands" throughout the entire new church experience. Let me explain. When we arrive at church every Sunday morning, people are at the front door with a warm smile and a firm handshake. Having someone to personally escort us to our Sunday school classes and to help us gracefully get back together as a family following Sunday school has been exceptionally well done. We could not have asked for better love and care for our boys. Again, the genuineness has been most impressive. For my boys, as visitors, getting handwritten postcards in the mail at home from their Sunday school teachers have meant so much. Thirdly, the leaders in the church, including the minister of music, have made great strides to get us involved. They have not been pushy. In fact, it's been just the opposite. The people have an authentic love that draws people to service. Again, who wouldn't want what these people have? The minister of music, especially, has made a real effort to get us involved in the music program, after discovering that is an area of interest to us. He cared enough to ask and to hold our hands as we've become involved! The people who've visited our home have been forthright in saying, "Quite frankly, we don't have a lot of the bells and whistles' that some churches have-we're a small and a growing church. But we do love the Lord and we're looking for people who want to help us reach people for Christ and love others." Wow. How many of you besides me have missed this concept in our weekly holy huddles? Attracting people to our churches is a natural byproduct, not of having been in church last Sunday but having been with Jesus to a degree that it draws visitors in a way that only Christ's love can. How rare a concept is that for churches in the 21st Century?
2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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