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“There was no one for me”

by on March 23, 2015

welcome-home-doormat-001She has just turned 78. Her English is not great. She wants to follow Jesus.

I went to visit her on her birthday. We got chatting. She said:

__________________________

“I went to the church over in Petersham, I don’t know what it’s called. But now I come to you instead. I no go there any more.”

“Really? Why did you stop going to Petersham?”

“Because… after the service, they have coffee, they drink something together, they have their people, they go off and talk, the young people talk, and… there is no one for me.”

“Nobody talked to you?”

“That’s right. I am left on my own. I have no one. But now I come to you, and everyone is my friend. Everyone wants to know me.”

“Well, you know that’s what we’ve learned from Jesus. He’s making us into a family, where we belong to each other and help each other.”

“Yes, I like very much. I come to you now.”

_________________________

I’m not feeling that proud of this story. It’s not such a great achievement for a small church plant to be welcoming and friendly to a newcomer.

But I am feeling troubled. Because I hear this same story over and over again. So often.

What on earth is going on in our churches? What sort of gospel is getting taught, that produces this lack of welcome?

I’d welcome any insights…

From → General

5 Comments
  1. David Finch permalink

    It’s a win for your Church and for the Kingdom that she didn’t walk away completely, but this is not uncommon…a very similar comment came up in a sermon at our church in recent weeks…Our minister referred to people at a previous church who had said things along the line of “I’ve been here for a year and nobody has welcomed me”.

    The reverse (or maybe not a reverse) of that is that when we were between ministers, I received a complaint from a now former parishioner who had left our church for another some months before, but was scathing that I had included her on a bulk email. Her complaint was that nobody had noticed she was gone. I’m not sure how I was supposed to know this, of course, as the service she attended was not ones that I was at. She hadn’t told anybody she had left, nor had she asked to be taken off the roll/mailing list. I suspect that I was the easy target of her frustrations, and you can bet that she wouldn’t have written the same email had it been the locum sent it out.

    In both these cases, I wonder what peoples expectations are…and how we can either apply a reality check to their expectations or find a way to meet them.

    It can be hard to get into a social circle at a church, and it is sad that Petersham did not identify that this woman felt left out. Too often, people come and people go, and it can be hard for those at the church to know where people fit in. It can be that someone who comes regularly is assumed to have a social group established, and so people miss that that this is not the case. Likewise, someone who comes rarely doesn’t give anyone a real chance to even see that there is a need.

    There are things that a new church goer can do to help themselves. Firstly, give the Church a chance. Make sure you do stick around at Morning Tea and don’t disappear in the first five minutes because nobody talked to you, because that’s making the problem worse. Secondly, introduce yourself to the minister after the service – If he is doing his job, he will introduce you to people he thinks may be compatible with you. It may take time to get this right though. Ultimately, and hard though it is, you may need to put yourself out there and go and talk to people – about anything – the weather, the football, or (even better) something from the Sermon. It’s amazing how quickly the barriers will break down if you take the initiative instead of waiting for someone to talk to you. Yes, it can be hard, but remember that others are probably having the same difficulty in starting up a conversation with you.

    OK…What can the Church do? At our Church, we try to take the initiative. We have people whose ministry is to be on guard for new people, to talk to them, invite them to morning tea/supper and then introduce them to other people. I don’t think it is always an easy job, and I tip my hat to them – they do what I wish that I could achieve. I try, but God has decided that my gifts are better placed elsewhere, and I guess that’s OK.

  2. I actually think she did walk away for a while, but then we turned up at her door and made friends and coaxed her back.

  3. Lisa permalink

    David,
    What you describe is exactly the point – churches are so unwelcoming. How can people be attending a church for over year (or even a month!) and never be invited into someone’s home? People joining a church are not just looking for someone to be friendly to them at morning tea. The New Testament shows the church as a community of people following Jesus and doing life together. How can you do life with people when the only time you see them and talk to them is for a few minutes at morning tea or supper? How can discipling of people be effective when you know almost nothing of eachother’s lives?

    Not only is a community sharing their lives critical in effective discipling of people but also in effective mission to the outsider. ‘By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’ (Jn 13:35) Mission is not an individual activity but a corporate one, and the primary form of mission is by being a community of people gathered around the person of Jesus that includes all comers.How is this love visible to the outsider if there is no place where this community is demonstrated or expressed? Only living this way attracts outsiders to a life they cannot have apart from Christ but which they discover they desperately want.

    • What she said!
      😊

  4. Tham permalink

    Thanks for this post Jonathan.

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