Some time ago, as I was waiting for my car to be worked on, a framed message titled “Remember Me?” caught my attention. My guess was that it was put in place by the management as a reminder to all the employees. It read: “I’m the fellow who goes into a restaurant, or department store, or gas station and waits patiently while you ignore me to chit chat or whatever you do besides take care of me. Yes, you might say I am a patient person. But do you know who else I am? I’m the fellow who doesn’t come back. You spend a lot of time and money to get me into your store. When I was there the first time all you had to do was show me a little courtesy or give me a little service and I could have been a regular customer.”
As I read that, I thought about all the people who serve the public who need to read that and take it to heart. Then I thought, they aren’t the only ones who need to read that message. So, on the spot I wrote a few more lines:
“I’m the fellow who comes into your church building and stands at the back, looking for a place to sit with no one volunteering to help me. I’m the fellow who patiently waits for someone to introduce himself or offer some polite conversation. I am also the fellow who makes his way quietly to the exit at the close of the service passing members enjoying their visits with each other. I’m the fellow who leaves with no complaint. I’m the fellow who will never come back.“
Everyone says we are a friendly congregation, that we like to meet and greet and make people feel at home. But is that true of every first time stranger who enters our doors or only of the people we know and look forward to seeing each Sunday? It is unfortunately true that many churches are friendly….but only to people they already know. The real need is to be friendly to the person who enters for the first time. Many people come to church only because their lives are so painful that they are now ready to try anything, including religion. What a shame it would be if their visit to us was met by indifference and silence on our part.
Remember the stranger, the first-timer, the person you’ve never met, Don’t ever let him leave without a hearty welcome from you. Only God knows what doors that my open.
One morning I happened to be driving in the right hand lane when one of those huge earth hauling trucks was attempting a right turn from the center lane. His huge tire did a number on my right front fender before he was able to stop. I won’t go into all the details except to say neither of us was cited by the policeman who took the report. To be honest about it I probably should have been aware of what he was trying to do and shouldn’t have pulled into that right lane. In other words, I was probably at fault because of inattention (don’t tell my insurance agent I said that!) Yielding to popular stereotypes I pictured this burly truck driver chewing me out and saying “I cant turn this thing on a dime, you know!” Well, he was burly, and he was also confident that he wasn’t at fault, but he didn’t chew me out. Instead, before he left the scene he said “I’m sorry about your truck.” That took all the wind out of my sails. I hadn’t expected any gentleness or compassion from a driver of one of those monster rigs. The entire scene was changed by his gentle attitude.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship