What does church look like to the unchurched? A solemn rite? Bowed heads and whispered prayers? Or maybe… a hospitable party? Or, a less friendly alternative… a family feud? More importantly, what does our church look like? The following quick interaction from this past week may have something to reveal on the subject.
It was about 1:45 pm on Saturday and the fellowship meal was winding down. The pretty fall colored table cloth still had food on it. Little girls in their frilly dresses buzzed about while the happy chatter of the half-full hall spilled over into the entry way. There was some hearty laughter and back-slapping at a table as a joke flew. Others were grabbing their jackets and in the middle of saying goodbye to their friends.
How many lonely people could use some laughter and some conversation?
It was at this interval that I, too, decided it was time to leave. I ducked inside the restroom to wash my hands. While at the sink I caught a glimpse of a curly blonde entering a stall. Was it my new friend Tammy?
“Is that you, Tammy?” I called.
Since it was obvious that we were the only two in the restroom at the time, the voice on the other side of the door felt compelled to answer. “No, it’s only me. I was waiting in the parking lot for friends to meet up with me to go to Bradbury Mountain and needed to use the restroom.”
"Oh.” I paused, “Glad you felt free to come inside.”
“Are you guys having a party?” the faceless voice asked. Her question surprised me.
“No, this is just our normal fellowship dinner following the church service.” I replied.
“On Saturday?” she queried.
“Yes. Every Saturday at 11 a.m. Feel free to join us sometime. You could come just as you are in your walking clothes. You would fit right in. It’s very casual here.”
At that point my hands were washed and dried, so I excused myself.
Later, in the car I thought back to the conversation. Huh, a party. She thought we were having a party, That’s good, right? Yes! That’s definitely good! I thought of the simple agenda of conversation over food. Our guest had obviously noticed people enjoying one another’s company. She had clearly noticed the fall decorations. Perhaps she took note of smiling faces and children playing. The message she perceived was, “It’s friendly here. It’s relaxed here.”
I was proud of my home church that day. We truly were “representing a welcoming God from the inside out.” But more importantly, I all of a sudden realized that it was selfish of me to hoard this good thing. How many lonely people could use some laughter and some conversation?
The children’s story James told on that same day came home to me in a new way. Remember? “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many…But they all alike began to make excuses…. And the slave came back and reported this to his master….And the master said to the slave, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.” (taken from Luke 14: 16-24)
Why wasn’t I spreading the word about table of delights to be had among us? The conversation. The sense of belonging. The ease of interacting with those you know care. All these good gifts can be found in the halls of Freeport Adventist Church. Let’s not keep this good thing under wraps any more! The news deserves to be spread far and wide! God cares! We care!