About a year and a half ago I made it a habit of visiting different churches as an unknown visitor. I wanted to get ideas, see the different cultures and get a feel of the different people that worship God.
What made it even more interesting was when I stopped wearing “church clothes.” I’d go in with a hoodie or leather jacket, Timberland boots and a book bag that had my Bible and pad to take notes. It was interesting to note how I was treated: Some were nice, some were indifferent and some were, well, less than friendly.
But there was one instance that is forever burned in my mind.
Visitor in the Crowd
I went into a very large, technologically advanced church. It was one of the hottest churches in New York City. I walked in one fall Sunday with my hoodie, leather jacket, jeans, Timberland boots and book bag draped over my left shoulder.
You could hardly “tell” I was a Christian.
When I entered there were six greeters, and I was walking straight towards one of them. She said, “Good morning.” I perked up and thought she was talking to me; alas I was wrong. It was an older gentleman behind me. She went around me to give him a big hug.
I said, “OK. She probably just missed me. No big deal.”
Then I walked towards the sanctuary. There was an usher who was there to guide the people in. She was smiling. I said to myself, “Wow! That’s great. That’s how you make people feel warm. There were three people before me. To the first she smiled and waved them in with her left hand, “Good morning.”
To the second she smiled and waved with her left hand, “Good morning.”
To the third the same thing, “Good morning.”
But its funny when she got to me… she kinda just looked at me. She waved with her left, there was no smile, and she said, “Hello.”
In the Sanctuary
I got inside and the church was beautiful. A lot of people, the choir was practicing and people were talking to each other. Nobody really said anything to me though, but who was I… just a visitor.
It is amazing that we can get caught in up in communication, our story and the story of Christ. But sometimes we can forget the experiences we create with people. My experience as a “Sunday sinner” totally changed the way I interacted with people before and after church services at my own church. I learned to greet everybody and spend time with them even if meant missing important “church stuff.”
Here’s my challenge to you: Become a Sunday sinner. Go to a different church—not as a pastor, deacon, youth leader or anything like that. Go as a stranger. See how you’re treated, then see how you treat people.
I guarantee being a Sunday “sinner” will change your life!
What do you think? Do you see yourself as a Sunday “sinner?”
- Learn more about how to welcome church visitors with this massive collection of resources and blog posts.
- Walking into a church for the first time can be scary. Check out Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm for practical ideas and perspective on first-time guests.