It seems that fall is here already and winter is quickly approaching! Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was sitting on my porch watching the Dogwood trees blooming? Today I still feel the occasional reminder of summer's warmth but know that the sounds of football games being played on Friday nights tell me it really is fall.
I’ve also noticed the frequency of new faces and the return of some familiar faces to our worship times. I am blessed to have a few moments to connect with most people in attendance on Sunday, but have lost track of some of our visitors and members. Have you noticed that happening to you also?
These circumstances led me to think about the makeup of people who visit the church. There seem to be five kinds:
1) Persons seeking surrogate family. These people are separated from their families of origin by work, school or military life. They may even be at odds with or divorced from their family of origin. They want someplace that makes them feel welcome. They want someplace to belong.
2) Persons seeking an alternative to the anonymity of the work place and general community. When it comes to worship and spiritual growth, these people want a setting where they know and are known by name. They want someplace to belong.
3) Persons weary of self-absorption and in search of a community story into which they can jump. These seekers are looking for a story bigger than themselves but still small enough that they might contribute to the larger story. They want someplace to belong.
4) Persons who have a score to settle with God but want to settle it in a safe environment. They are looking to God to make sense of the sudden death of a child, a spouse, or best friend. They regret the setbacks of their lives and seek to find God’s presence for their lives. They want someplace to belong.
5) Persons who are looking for a place to give back for the blessings they have received. Life has been good to them and they have reached a fork in the road. Will this person hold on tightly to what God has given to them or will they seek to make a difference in the lives of those around them? They want someplace to belong.
Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? I certainly see myself and am so grateful to the people who surrounded me with God’s love and allowed me to grow with them. Now the question becomes, how will the church respond to the new visitor? Will there be room at the table? Will we invite, nurture and help all people seeking a relationship with God to grow with us? Or will we seek to remain comfortable and complacent?
I believe all persons have a place at Christ’s table and I have personally witnessed the love and fellowship of the church at Mt. Nebo UMC. I look forward to welcoming others to the family! So, let’s all pull up a chair and grow together!
In Christ’s service, Rev. Pat