Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Handshakes, Hugs, and Hellos

Sweaty palms gripped the steering wheel and an anxious heart made my foot press unknowingly further down on the gas pedal until my eyes caught glance of the speedometer. As I gradually slowed the car, I prayed and asked the Lord to ease my fretting over my children attending youth group for the first time at a new church. The onslaught of questions and statements flooded my mind as we pulled into the parking lot.

“Would anyone notice we were new?”
“I hope people are friendly.”
“I hope they don’t just stare at the new people.”
“Would this congregation be kind and welcoming to my children?”
“Is this the place where the Lord would have us worship and be fed?”

Question after question followed by statement after statement flooded my mind until at last I took a deep breath and released my grip from the wheel to enter the unknown.

My family and I have relocated several times in the past eight years and each time I know it is imperative for myself, especially as a stay at home mom, and for my family to get connected to a church body. I get very anxious (even though Paul warns us to be anxious about nothing) over the entire process of finding a new church family, but also excited for what God has in store for us as he opens doors to new friendships of everlasting proportions.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Upon entering a church for the first time, a “warm fuzzy” environment with an embrace of love which seems to envelop the entire church body in a bear hug is essential and key to my family ever attending for a second time. After entering some places of worship, we did not make it past the sanctuary doors because the glares and stares portrayed an unfriendly environment. These unfortunate Sunday’s were met with great sadness followed by brunch out to soothe our dismal encounter.

“Greet one another with a kiss of love.” I Peter 5:14

If we make it to a pew, preferably the back, I observe the people of the congregation. I want to see deep devotion, care, and love (very essential) between the parishioners. I like handshakes, hellos, and hugs, followed by a greeting of genuine friendship. A rare sighting of a greeting with “a kiss of love” as Paul speaks of scores extra points. However, I get excited when my observing is interrupted by a tap on the shoulder and a fellow brother or sister in the Lord greets and welcomes us. Hey, they noticed the new comers! Above all, I must see love! I must feel love for without love God does not exist for God is love…hands down!

“Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God, everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8

Not only do I observe how the congregation interacts with each other, but I also look at the age of all who attend. If all I see are canes, walkers, and white hair a red flag goes up. I begin to look for the youth and young couples. If I don’t see them I believe I may have stumbled upon a stagnate church afraid of change. This may be judgmental on my part for which forgiveness is needed, but I have children who also need fellowship and friends with the same values. It is my God given role to raise them in the way of the Lord and to provide them with a secondary means of learning about Jesus surrounded by a church body.

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