This satirical video (which you can find here) about those who have responsibility for greeting people at church will, at least, have you smiling (possibly even creased up laughing).
It humorously deals with what is. in many ways, a very serious issue. I feel welcoming people at church is one of those ministries which can be taken for granted. It is seen as something that is easy to do and is on little consequence in the whole maelstrom of church life. I believe this to be an inappropriate assessment.
The way people are welcomed at the door is so important. Some may be coming to church with many griefs and burdens; a cheery greeting at the door can uplift them and set them up for a good time at church. Some would be coming to your church for the first time. The first impression those people get of the church is likely to be with those greeting them on the door.
Those involved in stewarding / door duty should be gifted with awareness and sensitivity. They need to potentially deal with people becoming ill or other eventualities. Their competence, or lack thereof can effect how church goes for many people.
So take note of those in your church who are involved in this vital ministry. Pray for them and encourage them as they seek to serve the Lord.
I am thinking here of welcoming people to our homes and particularly when we have guests over for a meal or some time together. Now there can be no fixed formality about how we welcome people and what we do will depend upon our relationship with them and the context in which they are visiting. However, notwithstanding the flexibility involved I do wnat to offer some thoughts:
Informing your visitors, upon their arrival, that it is good to see them and to have them with you makes them at ease and aware that they are welcome in your home.
As a general rule, whenever guests arrive we must make it clear that they are welcome. To just carry on with what we are doing and give them a nod and a grunt seems to be impolite. As a parent it is good to get your children into the habit of coming from their rooms and activities to welcome people. They may return from whence they came after the welcome. But in doing this they have given some honour to your guests who are visiting. This would be similalry doen when your guests leave.
Mr Hinton, who i referred to here, used to have the unique way of using his handshake to pull you into his house when you visited. This was actually quite endearing and expressive of him welcoming you. He would also move you away from the house through his handshake when you left. I never thought that this was a “glad to get rid of you gesture”, but rather that he was sending you lovingly on your way.
This leads me to how we send people away. When your hosts send get you out of the door and immediately close the front door behind you always leaves me a bit dismayed. No ill-will may be meant by this. However, it does convey the “glad they are gone” impression. Accordingly, when people leave it is good to exchange wholesome words relating your pleasure in having them with you. You express this in a way without lying, of course. Then when you have seen them through the door you wait until they have walked away from your house or departed in their car. If they specifically say that you should go inside then that makes the matter different.
All in all it is good to show politeness and courtesy so as not to needlessly offend people.
Seldom set foot in your neighbour’s house – too much of you, and they will hate you. (Prov. 25:17). Superficially we might think that this scripture contradicts my observations from last Friday (see here) about the joy of seeing our fellow believers. However, here is a complementary thought.
As we look at this statement we have to remember that it is found in the book of Proverbs. So we must remember that the statement is part of a collection of statements which give general maxims about what constitutes a valuable life. They are generalisms.
So when Solomon writes about seldom being in your neighbour’s house he is making a generalised statement about how to live your life. Notice it does not say “never”; he says “seldom”. What he is saying is that we should never out-stay our welcome. People may be glad to see us. but they will not be so glad if we are still in situ at 1.00am in the morning when they have work the next day and want to get to bed.
Of course circumstances determine outcomes and crises may necessitate our presence beyond normal expectations. However, a general principle should be that we never out-stay our welcome. And then there are all the cultural niceties which bear upon these matters. And cultures vary so much.
This applies about our pastoral visits as well. Be sensitive to the circumstances of those we are visiting.
Finally, as a generalisation “always leave while you are still welcome.” If you heed that you will do well.
Visiting people and pastoral visitation, in particular, are so easily considered to be activities that just happen and do not have to be thought about. But visitation does have to be considered and thought through. Primarily, you need to remember that your visit to the other person should be motivated by love. You are going to them to bless them. So a self-giving attitude should prevail.
One particular way in which you love them is in thoughtfully considering how long you stay with them. This requires great sensitivity. If you leave someone too quickly then that person may feel that they have just had a perfunctory uncaring visit. However, if you stay too long then you can exhaust the person even grossly inconvenience them. So thoughtfulness is very important. Being aware of the health condition and general strength of the person is also very important. There are no doubt cultural sensitivities which need to be considered as well.
One guide to always have in your mind is to leave while you are still welcome. It is better to leave too early rather than too late.
The young and old need each other. They need each other whether that be in society, in the family, or in the church. As a general principle the older have the wisdom and the younger have the vigour. However, one big problem is that both young and old are often distant from each other. In the church this should not be so.
One way in which the younger can bridge this gap and bring great joy to the older is through taking an interest in them. I believe that younger people just don’t realise how much blessing they can bring to older people through very simple things. A visit for example can be so special for older ones. This is particularly the case for those who rarely get out and therefore can be very lonely. Sometimes it is a phone call that can bring much encouragement to someone. Just a little thoughtfulness can bring much blessing to an older person.
So younger people think about how you can bless others. A little time and effort from you can achieve much good. Of course a key to bringing this good into the lives of others, is to make sure that you are praying. Pray about what you do so that you can effectively use your time to bless others.
I feel hospital visiting is a thing that a lot of people do, but few people think about how they do it.
My main point here is the amount of time people give to visiting. Dear Uncle H is there lying in bed and is recovering from an operation. He is weak. He is very easily exhausted. He does not want to engage in any lengthy conversation. However, he does want people to visit; he does want to see some familiar faces. He does want to have indication that people care and have not forgotten Him.
Given this situation what is the best outcome? Go and visit, but just visit for a few minutes. Show you interest and concern by being there. But also show your interest and care by not being there too long.
And it will be good to pray and read Scripture as appropriate, but don’t give a lengthy sermon and don’t pray around the world and back. Show your love and be thoughtful.
Remember, Uncle H cannot just get up and get away from you. In a sense he is captive.
And if other people are there, be particularly sensitive. One of the saddest things to see in a hospital is a whole gaggle of people sitting around a convalescent bed talking about this and that. And the poor person in bed just wants some peace.
So it is good to visit those in hospital, but do it thoughtfully .