Visitors & Fellow Worshippers … Bearing Another's Burden

It’s a sad refrain to see so many American churches drying up. Many denominations – once vibrant and active – are now barely keeping their doors open. There are many reasons for this, but often it is simply because people’s needs are not being met. For example, a visitor may accompany a friend to church because of the dynamic preaching and uplifting praise and worship services, yet this alone will not keep them in the church.

 

For many years I’ve tried to convince pastors that while Bible-based preaching is important, there are other factors that must be considered when it comes to keeping people in the church. While it is commendable to have an outreach ministry to the community, the real question is: Will they stay in the church once they come? Television makes various preachers, from many backgrounds, available to everyone’s home. Yet people still seek the fellowship of a local church. Why? Because they are longing for close relationships with other Christians, and to be nurtured by a loving pastor who really cares about them, and not just their tithe.

 

In reality, churches are unique organisms, each having its own personality. Thus, while one church body appeals to certain people, another person is more suited to the church down the street. One reason for this is because people want to identify in some way and feel a connection with the church they attend. They need to feel they “fit” in a particular body of believers, knowing this is where their particular gifts and talents will be welcomed and utilized.

Often church visitors are simply looking for someone to be concerned about them and their families, and they will gravitate toward a group of believers willing to show them the genuine love of Christ.  As a result, today’s church seekers often require more intimacy than previous generations because of the complexity of our society. Though people may come to church looking for solutions to their problems, solutions don’t always come quickly and easily … but a warm hug and a hearty handshake will make a big difference.

 

How does your church greet visitors? Do you personally make an effort to welcome new people and say hello? Usually when a stranger comes into a local church only two or three people may rise up and greet them. Visitors like to feel warmth and love inside the church; and without it, they won’t come back. Remember that most people may not have the skills to express themselves or their needs openly. And they may be too shy or fearful to say “I’m lonely” or “I need a friend.”  Don’t wait for someone to approach you … just approach them. Make a new friend. Remember that Scripture tells us: “If you want friends, you must be friendly [yourself]” (Prov. 18:24).

 

And what about those around you with whom you worship every week? If you are not a pastor, ask yourself these questions: Do you fellowship regularly with another family in your church?  Do you ever invite someone in your church to eat lunch with you on Sunday?  Perhaps someone with whom you already worship needs a helping hand.  The Scriptural challenge for us today is to “Bear one another’s burden” (Gal. 6:2 – NKJV) because when you lighten the load of another, their load becomes easier to bear. 

 

The bottom line is, as Christians, we must make the effort to forget about our own challenges and show concern for those around us who need a friend – whether they are visitors or the people with whom we’ve worshipped for years.