There are plenty of things that church should be. There is also no one perfect way to do church today. Unity is essential to the universal church, but that can be achieved even when there is diversity. But there are a few things that all church experiences should include.
You will notice that there are some essential things that I don’t talk about in depth here. This is simply because they seem obvious. Such things include Bible teaching, worship, ordinances (Lord’s Supper and Baptism), tithing, etc. I want to address a handful of other essentials to the church experience that might not be so obvious to many churchgoers. These are seemingly small things (they are actually very big things!) that often slip through the cracks.
1. You Should be Greeted
Praise be to the door holders! In any situation in life, people ought to greet one another with a smile and a, “Hello, how are you doing?” (or a “Howdy!” if you’re in Texas). There is something about having someone else acknowledge that you are there—even if you don’t know the person! People love to be greeted with a friendly face and a handshake.
But it doesn’t have to be limited to the guy holding the door. The time between entering the building and the service starting is one of my favorite parts of church. It’s my chance to say hi to the folks I know, meet folks I don’t, and catch up on how everyone’s week has been (If your service includes a “meet and greet” time, that’s a bonus). Now I understand, there are more introverted types who aren’t exactly thrilled by the idea of talking to everyone in the sanctuary. And that’s ok! But it is very important to at least say hi to someone. We were made for connection.
I have heard multiple horror stories about people walking into a new church (or even their regular church) and then leaving after church was over without one person saying, “Hi.” It’s no secret that people often judge a new church the moment they walk in the door. Whether that’s fair or not is not my concern here. My concern is the amount of people who walk into your church (and my church) who aren’t properly greeted when they get there.
Let our churches be known for their hospitality. Be the first person to greet someone this Sunday.
2. You Should be Prayed for
Prayer is the most powerful tool the church has. If we really believe God can do all things, why don’t we ask him more? I’m not talking about cooperate prayer (although I think that’s great). Your pastor praying over the congregation is certainly an important part of church life. And I am sure that your church really does care about you as an individual. But it is rare that every person in a church is individually prayed for every Sunday. I think they should be.
Now I know this might be bold, but I don’t think it has to be wishful thinking. It is very possible. Not long ago, my wife and I were a part of a church that had services in a borrowed space downtown. We volunteered to help the weekly set up which included setting out all the chairs (about 500 of them). After set up was finished, each of the volunteers would go sit among the empty chairs and pray for the individual souls that would soon fill them. I was so impressed!
Small groups are great for this! Life groups, Sunday school classes, breakout sessions (whatever your church calls them) have amazing opportunities for intentional prayer. Think about how much deeper your relationships will become. How much more meaningful will cooperate worship gatherings be if each worshipper has his/her needs prayed for?
Let our churches be known for their radical dependence on God. Pray for someone this Sunday.
3. You Should Engage in a Real Conversation
Like I said earlier, you were made for connection. True community is vital to any church body. Unfortunately it’s not always accomplished. Understand that I am not writing to bash pastors or church staff. I’m writing to challenge regular church attenders. When is the last time you had a real conversation with someone else at church?
For many, church conversations are limited to small talk. And there is nothing wrong with small talk. You won’t see me at church bombarding every person with deep theological thoughts or heavy spiritual groanings. It’s a rare thing for me to leave a conversation at church without talking about sports. But we need to engage in meaningful discussion once in a while.
I often feel convicted because I don’t know what is going on in other churchgoers’ lives. I have never asked. And I doubt I’m the only one. It is every Christian’s responsibility to look out for his/her brothers and sisters in their Christian community. That begins with really getting to know them, which starts by having a real conversation with them. Churches don’t build relationships as much as relationships build churches. Your church needs this, and you need it.
Be ready to listen to what is going on in the lives of others. Be willing to share your own struggles. Be excited to hear and tell about good things! Be prepared to carry someone else’s burden. Open yourself up in order to achieve better community for yourself and those around you.
Let our churches be known for the relationships that build them. Don’t leave this Sunday without engaging in a real conversation.
My prayer is that you find these things at your church. In my opinion, they are extremely important for real church community. If you don’t find these things, the first thing you should do is not blame your church. Challenge yourself to create an environment that is conducive for community. These three things are great places to start.
Let our churches be known for their community. Let our love for one another be seen (as the Bible says it will) by the world that is desperately seeking connection.