I willingly give others the space to feel free by agreeing to place a formal societal limitation on my “right” to own an assault weapon because, though I will not walk into a school and start shooting, other mentally disturbed people might. So for the good of the whole, I agree to a legal prohibition of certain guns and ammunition clips. This is the same reason I agree to speed limits, seat belt laws, and blood alcohol limits in the use of my car. This is the same reason I agree to only being able to purchase small amounts of certain cold medicines, so as to help stop the spread of meth.
We are not so naive as to believe that all of our fellow citizens will go along with these societal agreements. That is why we elect representatives who will pass laws to enforce these agreements for the good of the whole.
Christians around the world are at a loss to understand their spiritual family in the US on this issue. I wonder if Christians in the US have any idea the degree to which this is a unique cultural issue which is bizarre to the larger global church. If that surprises you, you might consider talking to a broader range of people with more diverse perspectives.
So here are a few things that could be considered to create a more experienced based worship service:
- Use video throughout.
- Use a three projection screen setup.
- Dim the lights in the audience and brighten the stage.
- Use testimonials.
- Make preaching biblical, culturally relevant, and applicable. Remember, people are not going to be wowed by our exegesis.
- Use “pre-worship” music and “post-worship music.”
- Engage the body, mind, and heart in worship.
- Emphasize community.
How can we make the people in our church feel welcomed?
- Avoid questions like “Are you new?” or “Is this your first Sunday?”
- If you find out that someone you are talking to is new (which will usually reveal itself early in the conversation), personally escort them and their children to each class.
- If at all possible, introduce new people to others.
- Make an intentional effort to remember people’s names.
- As visitors are leaving, make sure to smile and thank them for coming.
We have surrendered everything to gain Christ, and having Christ, we now possess all things. We no longer have to cling to our rights, our statuses, or our lives. We can approach strangers not with fear, but with love. Henri Nouwen writes in Reaching Out, “We can only see the stranger as the enemy as long as we have something to defend.” Why would we need to defend anything when in Christ we have all things? We are now free to give, to extend open hands in hospitality.
Even as I write this, the realist in me is retorting, “Yea, right. But you don’t understand the way the world works. You gotta practice street smarts, or you’re just being plain stupid.” Maybe so, maybe so. But as Christians, we have to ask ourselves, “Is the fleeting security I gain by avoiding strangers worth the precious opportunities I lose? Is my attitude toward strangers being driven by fear or by love?”