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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)

TITLE: Greetings
By Esther Phillips


My husband was recalled into the Army during the Cuban Crisis and was sent to Augusta, Georgia. The army told him in their “greetings” letter that he was not to bring family until they determined what the living conditions would be. We were expecting our first child and it was difficult for both of us for him to go without me.

A few weeks later, he called to tell me to come because he found a house he thought would work for us. His brother drove me there, but I was ready to head back to Texas when I saw the house. It was very run down and roach infested. Instead of renting the house, we spent the night in a motel. We found a trailer house the next day.

After we settled in, we started looking for a church. We visited many churches in the area. I remember one where many of the ladies came to church wearing their fur coats. No one spoke to us. It didn’t matter, because it wasn’t a match for us anyway.

Most people in the churches we visited didn’t greet us. A few others said things like, “Oh, well, you won’t be here long being in the Army.” We spent that year not going to church because we ran into people who were unfriendly.

I have found other churches down through the years that also are unfriendly to new people. Yet, they proclaim that they are a “friendly” church.

Years after the Army escapade, I took some evangelism training and served as part of a task force over a three state area. Our task was to help churches grow. We sent a couple people to attend their church services and evaluate what we saw there. When we met with their leaders to give them the report, they would practically always become defensive if anything was said about them not being friendly. I found that most churches view themselves as friendly, and they usually are to their own members.

My own church fell into this category, too. When I started going there 10 years ago, I was greeted at the door, but I could leave there never having spoken to another person. I had just moved into the area and was hungry for fellowship. This church has over 1,000 members so it is not easy to recognize visitors. This year, we have embarked on a new ministry where people are placed outside the sanctuary with a lanyard around their necks saying, “Hello, may I help you?” They are working intentionally to make new people feel welcome.

In my evangelism training, we were told that people don’t come to church just because they get up one morning and say, “I think I’ll go to church today.” They said they usually have things working in their lives that cause them to start looking for some answers and they think they’ll
find them in a church.

In the Old Testament is a story about hospitality. Judges 19:20-21 “‘You are welcome at my house,’ the old man said, ‘Let me supply whatever you need. Only don’t spend the night in the square. So he took him into his house and fed his donkeys. After they had washed their feet they had something to eat and drink.”

Obviously we don’t travel by donkey these days, and foot washing doesn’t have the significance it did in those days, nevertheless, hospitality is still a learned art. Some might say that visitors should be responsible for finding friends and programs available at the church. I contend that if someone comes to your home, you don’t expect them to find everything they need to feel comfortable. You provide food and drink and give directions to bed and bath. Visitors to our churches deserve to be treated as guests.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Janice Cartwright12/14/07
I really like the personal insights you include, birthed by your own experiences. Were there space this could be taken a step further. IMHO the lack of friendliness in churches is symptomatic of a more serious malaise, addressed by Jesus in his letter to the church at Ephesus.
Jan Ross12/16/07
Great thoughts on the meaning of the church and how the modern church is missing the point. Good work! Christmas blessings! :)
Jan Ackerson 12/17/07
Cool! I usually think of hospitality as applying to our homes, but you've made the point that it applies to our churches, too.
JoAnne Potter12/18/07
You are right. Hospitality is a big deal in churches and the bigger they are, the harder it is to muster effectively. You make a good point, but I don't understand why you included the whole first section about the roach-infested house. Jump right in. You don't have to put your toe in first.