Go Visit Another Church this Weekend!

Last night my wife Danielle and I went to participate in an evening worship service at another church. No, we're not unhappy with the services here :) Two main reasons why we went. First, I'd like to be able to find a really loud rocking worship service to go to every month. I just really like loud music... it speaks to me. Second reason is I really want to make sure that I'm doing good spiritually. Sundays mornings have a tendency to become work days... I have a lot of hallway meetings and I spend too much time during the service critiquing it and wondering how others are doing spiritual. This obvious gets in the way of my own worship time with God...

Anyways... we headed out around 5:50, a tad later then I wanted to since I had no real clue where we were going. I wanted to be able to get there early and check things out. Well, we got there at 6:26, four minutes before the service was supposed to start. Being rushed like this got me frazzled and already I was nervous and regretting coming. I hate going to places that I'm not familiar with... and being rushed just makes it worst for me. The building was pretty big so I wasn't sure where I should park... which added to my stress since I sure as heck didn't want to walk in with the service already starting! We finally noticed a sign pointing us in the right direction.

We entered the side door... and had no clue where to go. We peeked around corners trying to find where the service was being held. We finally found a large crowd around a cafe-style area and headed there. We quickly, and I mean VERY quickly, felt COMPLETELY out of place since most of the people there were half our age. I began to wonder if we had stepped into a youth event... but since they had coffee we stuck it out :) We fought our way through the sea of kids blocking the tables so we could get milk in our coffee and then we quickly went inside to sit down. I still was not convinced that we were in the right place and began regretting my decision to come and check this out... I felt like I should have just stayed home...

Finally more adults started showing up so we felt more at ease that we were in the right place. The music team started about 6:35... they were great. Nice and loud, just the way I like it. I still felt very out of place. Sitting around us were a bunch of young high school kids... so I felt like we really stuck out with me being about a foot and a half taller then anyone around us. In a room of about 150 people I felt like everyone was wondering who the new couple were... so I had a hard time getting into a worship kind of mood... I finally simply closed my eyes and try to stay focused on God and not care about everything around me. Announcements were very quick... just about donations can be given at the back, invitations to the service are available to give to your family and friends, then he asked everyone sitting on the sides to squeeze it for the people still hanging out in the cafe. That one made me uncomfortable... I really just wanted to stick to the side... Oh well. Then more singing. Then the message, which was really good and spoke to me in a number of areas. Then a couple more songs.

After the service we got our stuff together, found a garbage can to dump our coffee cups. Then headed for the back door. All this time not a single person said a single word to us. No body. No where. Nada. Zip. We were completely and totally on our own. The only time we spoke to anyone except each other was when the worship team forced everyone to turn and say Hi to somebody. That was it.

We were about to leave and headed for the door... but I had wanted to connect with this pastor so I forced myself to head back in and introduce myself to him. We had a great chat. He seems like a very nice guy. We chatted a bit then we left.

On the car ride home I had to ask myself the tough question: "Would I go back?". Even though the music and teaching style was fantastic, the entire time I felt like an outsider and that I didn't belong. Now, I probably would go back... because I'm a strong personality type who knows what I need in my life to do well spiritually, and going to this type of service once a month would be a good thing for me. But if I was shy or just exploring what church is all about I'm not so sure what my answer would be...

Now, the reason I'm writing this is NOT to critique the other church. FAR FROM IT! My goal in this experience is to critique MY CHURCH! How well are we creating an atmosphere where people feel like they belong??? When a new couple shows up do they feel awkward? Do they feel like nobody cares about them? Can they easily sneak in and out without a single person saying hi to them? I'd like to say that the answer to those questions are "NO" but the sad reality is that this probably happens here every single week...

So... I would like to encourage all of you to go check out another church this weekend! Why? So you can remember what it feels like to know nobody! So you can remember what it feels like to be an outsider. So you can remember what it feels like to not be a part of the crowd. Then you can remember this when you come back to your regular church home. You can remember that feeling of awkwardness... and when you do see a new face at your church, you can help them to not feel the way you did! Helping people feel the love of God is not just the job of the integration pastor but should be the heart's desire of every single person in the church. The Bible says we should care more for others then for ourselves... and I think this needs to start on Sunday.


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