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.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship