In my travels, as a church consultant, I have the privilege of worshiping in a wide variety of churches, with many different styles. I had an interesting experience at a church I recently visited.
In most churches, it is common, at some point in the worship service, to greet those around you. The length of time to greet varies from church to church.
The pastor announced, “Greet those around you.” I spotted a young family in the front row, to the right of where I was sitting. They looked like they could be guests, so I made the effort to greet them first. Then I greeted those around me. As I finished greeting, I spotted a man three rows back on the other side of the aisle. He was alone and looked sad. I thought, “I’ve got to greet this guy.” As I walked toward him, the pastor said, “Please be seated, and we will continue with the next worship song.” I picked up the pace to shake his hand and get back to my seat. However, as I shook his hand, he said, in a grumpy voice, “Will you sit down so we can continue the service?”
What lessons do you learn from my experience greeting this man? Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The church operates with a standing invitation for those who are burdened and troubled. And some of them actually come!
- Hurting people hurt people. This is not a signal to hurt back, but to recognize a possible need for care…and prayer.
- Not everyone gets what Christian worship ought to be like. Many have grown up in worship experiences where “somber” equals “holy” or “respectful.”
- Some have never read the Bible where it says Christians greet one another with “a holy kiss.” In First Century culture, that meant a kiss on both cheeks. In our generation? It might be a handshake or a hug.
- Others have over-defined worship as “religious rituals”: behaviors they inherited from another era. Rituals are not sacred. What’s in your heart and mind is what is important.
- Be careful not to judge another person’s behavior in worship: whether it’s the enthusiastic greeter like me, or the man who didn’t want my greeting. Jesus said, “Don’t judge, or you will be judged.”
- If you’re a friendly greeter, don’t let an occasional negative response change your expression of welcome. It’s worth the risk!
- Maybe it’s just me, but I think worship ought to be more fun and friendly. What do you think?
Shouldn’t churches, of all places, be filled with those eager to welcome and sensitive to those who don’t feel they want a friendly greeting?
What lessons have you learned from greeting others in church? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org
My wife and I have the best of all worlds in worship services… we seldom miss a Sunday service and are very loyal to our home church, but we travel in our motor coach quite often to all parts of the country. We use the LCMS app to find local churches on Sundays on our computer & cell phones. We usually try to make the Adult Bible class too. So, we usually visit 8-10 different churches besides our own throughout the year. All types of worship style, all types of reaching out and all types of congregational “outreach attempts”. Their attitude comes out usually in the Adult Bible class. From large (60-70) Studies by the pastor to the individual “small group” Bible studies. Some pastors don’t allow anything unless they direct it.
Then there is all styles of worship service from very German traditional liturgy to contemporary creative every-Sunday-different type liturgy. Some are hand-clapping emotional with applause and full band/musical accompaniment right up front with the pastor leading the group via the most up to date audio-visual electronics. Who’s correct? They all are. But, maybe people and pastors need to get out and see what others are doing to praise the Lord and reach new people. Would you play JS Bach in Kenya back country? Would country and western work in NYC? Traditional German Lutherans need to get out of their comfort zones and meet the rest of the world. Will many new young Christians be attracted to 16-18th century European hymns?
We love the new attempts to reach new people. Even us old people (we’re 74) like variety and there is nothing Biblical about the style of music that’s played on a Sunday morning. Respect and beauty is what God loves. How we worship should be dictated by what will work to bring new people to Him. The Great Commission was not given with specific directions on music or liturgy. Try anything and if it doesn’t work, try something different.
God is great and will show us the way.
Thanks for sharing your experiences, George. ~John with Church Doctor Ministries.