Learn From American Churches - Welcoming Guests
Learn From American Churches Ė Welcoming Guests
2 Cor 13:12-13
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. NASU
It is a privilege to visit so many different kinds of churches as I travel. Iíve visited churches of all sizes, races, denominations, and cultures. Iíve been to Christian churches who danced during the worship service and to the ones who prayed for those who danced. Iíve visited churches that kneeled silently and ones that raised hands and clapped. Iíve seen pets, tambourines, candles, swimming pools, and even fireworks in church. Iíve heard musicians that would rival any professional performance Iíve ever witnessed and musicians who play and sing in different keys. The one thing each worship experience has in common is that when I enter in a spirit of worship, I learn something.
In the spirit of keeping with the 2007 Pocket Full of Quarterís theme: Come, Take, and Learn, Iím going to be sharing what I learn in churches via short articles about the best practices of each church I visit. These stories will be titled - Learn From American Churches. I will include the relevant information about each church just in case you are ever in the area and would like to visit.
On the first Sunday of the 2007 journey, I went to the KOA office in Fort Stockton, Texas and asked about churches. The KOA owner beamed and said, ďIím going to send you to the best church in town Ė Northside Baptist Church. Iím sorry Iím not going with you. This is my church and I usually go but I got too busy this morning.Ē
After getting directions, Bob and I headed to church. Entering a new church is always a little uncomfortable but this church made it easy. When we walked in the back door, someone greeted us at the door and said, ďWeíre so glad youíre here.Ē When we explained we were traveling, she said, ďIíll bet you are staying at the KOA. She always sends people here.Ē
Bob and I sat quietly down on a back pew and hadnít been there thirty seconds before people came over and introduced themselves. Many even hugged us. Each guest was given the same red carpet treatment. This church was truly glad to have their guests. I also noticed how many guests the church had. The KOA owner wasnít the only one inviting people to church.
A young boy beamed as he walked up and handed us a blue coffee mug filled with candy. The pastorís wife came over and introduced herself. During the service, there was a specific time when guests were welcomed. An usher gave us a packet of information about the church and we were encouraged to fill out a form so they could welcome us further. Rev. Scott Owens welcomed us several times during the service, mentioning how happy he was to have so many guests there. After the service, people came up again, hugged us, and thanked us for coming. We left sure we were welcome.
I loved the fact that a child gave out the mugs. As I watched him handing out mugs, I kept thinking about how much Jesus loved children. What a lesson that was for this young man to learn how to welcome people to his church. I also noticed how much this church loved each other. In thirteen different places, The Bible says to ďgreet each other with a holy kiss.Ē Iíve never seen as much hugging as I witnessed in this church.
The only down side I saw to the entire experience was that Bob munched on the candy in the mug throughout the service. I did my wifely duty and told him it was inappropriate and he did his husbandly duty and ignored me. Iím not sure what bothered me most about him eating candy Ė the fact that eating candy in church seemed wrong or the fact that I gave up sugar years ago and couldnít have any. Since the Bible doesnít say anything about not eating candy during church, I decided to get over it.
This was perhaps the most welcome I have ever felt visiting a church. Some Sundays, I leave church without people even noticing Iíve been there. Some pastors vaguely mention visitors and say, ďWe donít want to make you feel uncomfortable,Ē as a way of explaining why a bigger deal isnít made out of guests. When I hear those words, I always think Iíd rather feel a little uncomfortable with too much attention than to feel unwelcome. At Northside Baptist Church in Fort Stocton, Texas, there is do doubt about their position about visitors Ė they love them!
If you happen to be in Fort Stockton, Texas Ė be sure to worship with Northside Baptist Church and let them welcome you. You can see pictures by going to the Photo Gallery and looking under Texas Ė Fort Stockton Ė Northside Baptist Church.
Northside Baptist Church
701 W. 17th St.
Fort Stockton, Texas 79735
Rev. Scott W. Owens