I love to see people talking after services at Bethlehem. Sometimes it’s heavy, and there are tears. Sometimes it’s light and there is laughter. Sometimes it’s just two; other times four or five. It may be in the aisle, or in the pews. It may last a minute; or I have seen people still going strong an hour after the benediction.
Hundreds and hundreds of relationships have been born over the past years during those after-service times. I can’t help but think that there is something very powerful in the spiritual atmosphere after we have lifted our hearts and voices to God in worship. I wonder if our hearts are not unusually prepared for love and care as the Spirit lingers on after a meeting with God.
I remember what John Paton, the missionary to the New Hebrides, said about the four-mile walks he took to church and back in his native Scotland when he was a boy. He and his father and brothers and sisters would always walk with others. His memories of those saints are poignant:
They went to the church, full of beautiful expectancy of spirit—their souls were on the outlook for God; they returned from the church, ready and even anxious to exchange ideas as to what they had heard and received of the things of life.
I wonder if we shouldn’t develop a Sunday morning motto at Bethlehem:
Come on the lookout for God,
leave on the lookout for people.
There is a brand new opportunity for members and regular attenders to make visitors feel loved and welcome. It’s the packets! Now you can spot the visitors! Our new way of welcoming visitors is to have the ushers hand out the new welcome packet. That means visitors raise their hands to receive one. That means you can see who they are. That means that when the service is over you can turn to those in your vicinity and say, “Good morning, welcome to Bethlehem, I noticed you got a packet. Good to have you here…”
Then what? Here are some possible questions to help a conversation happen. “Are you brand new, or have you been here before?” “Are you new in the area?” “How far did you come?” “Does your work bring you downtown during the week?” “Do you know anybody here?” “Have you ever been to a Sunday School class (evening service) here?”
How I would love to see some families decide that the Sunday noon meal would be an outreach meal. So on certain Sundays they would be on the lookout after church for new people, and invite them over for dinner (I’m talking soup and sandwiches, not roast!). Or try this: invite them to your house for popcorn after the evening service.
In any case, watch and see who takes the packets, and be sure to give a friendly word of welcome. “Show hospitality to strangers” (Hebrews 13:2). “Practice hospitality ungrudgingly” (1 Peter 4:9). Come on the lookout for God, leave on the lookout for people!
Reaching out to new people with you,