I’ve recently been in ‘church shopping’ mode. It was a strange experience for me as in all my previous 27 years walking this earth, I’d never ever done it before. But after finishing up at my church as the Youth Pastor in order to study fulltime, we decided it was the best idea.
Leading up to the experience I thought it would be fun. I thought I’d enjoy the process. Going to different churches, checking them out, critiquing, thinking about what I liked and didn’t like. But pretty soon I found the process frustrating, saddening, not all it was cracked up to be.
This has taught me two things.
Humans need humans.
Christians need Christians.
We are built for relationships. We cannot survive in this world on our own. After about two months of being without a church to call home I began to feel lonely. Sure, I had friends from my old church, and family around still. But I didn’t have a home.
The bible tells us in Hebrews that we should, 'consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another...' I'd always known that it was important to go to church, but it wasn't until I was without a home, that I realised just how important it is. In fact I know now that I'd rather be in a church that frustrated me than be in no church at all.
So because relationships matter, churches must be friendly. We ended up choosing the friendliest church. Not the one with best music, or best preaching, or slickest services. No, we chose the church where multiple people said hello, who invited us out for lunch afterwards; and backed up its friendliness on our second and third visit. Many of the churches we visited struggled. Sometimes we sat in the foyer alone for 15 minutes drinking a cup of tea by ourselves. On another occasion the only people who talked to us were the ones who were supposed to (minister/person with a name tag that said welcomer on it).
Christians need Christians. We need the different parts of the body to bless and encourage us, and we need to use our gifts to bless and encourage the body (1 Corinthians 12). So I need church and church needs me. You need church and church needs you. I believe that if we worked hard on making our churches places of love and openness, which were quick to welcome and show hospitality to strangers (aka newcomers), then we would see many more people darken the doors of church and begin a journey following in the footsteps of Jesus.