|I woke up with something heavy on my heart today, something that comes up every Christmas and Easter (Resurrection Sunday). Heather is going to step up on her soapbox, talk from her experience, and this is fully Heather’s opinion.
A phenomenon happens in many churches on Easter and Christmas, visitors who normally don’t go to church come. I dare say most churches have at least one visitor who comes solely because of the particular holiday. This is usually noted by the regulars who feel so puffed up in pride that they are not one of those who only come at the holiday, but that THEY worship year round. (Satan does his best to discourage the visitor from making this twice a year church attendance into full time church attendance and when the congregation looks down from their pinnacle of pride it serves satan’s purpose well, for it puts a barrier between the visitor and God).
Here are a few scenarios that I have actually experienced that make my hackles rise.
A Catholic Priest and many of the congregation talk about A & P Christians – Ashes and Poinsettia Christians. They will make a statement from the pulpit that there are many faces in the congregation that we only see at these times, and it may be time to come back to church on a regular basis. Usually these are Catholics who come to at least take communion at these two times of the year, but don’t come regularly. (satan loves that statement about A & P Christians for it thoroughly embarrasses the occasional church attending Catholic, reminds them of why they stopped coming in the first place, and certainly doesn’t send a warmth to the person, they leave the church condemned, and decide why bother.) Granted, the person might get convicted and come more regularly, but I bet you that the odds are almost certain that this sort of lecture from the pulpit will not convict them to attend regularly. Far better to be warmly welcoming, perhaps individually state that it is nice to see them, and that they are welcome to come back. They are missed, etc.
A church who does altar calls sees an influx of new faces. The church does their service, and then does an extended altar call because they might get a few salvations out of the visitors. The altar call goes on and on and on, and the visitors are uncomfortable, maybe some come forward to shut the person up, but they may not come forward because God has not put it in their heart yet. Remember it is not the church or pastor that saves a person, but a conviction from God and the Holy Spirit. Please know there is nothing wrong with altar calls, in fact it is important to (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) invite a person to come forward to receive Christ. But know it doesn’t have to be in front of hundreds of people at an altar call, it can be one on one. I once attended a church with my parents when I was little. It was apparent to us that we were the only visitors, and the pastor made an altar call, and made it for ten minutes (I had a watch), I couldn’t go forward because I would have been beaten to a pulp by my father if I had, neither could my mother. My father didn’t budge. It was just an uncomfortable 10 minutes. In the car going home my father joked about how long the altar call went on and how that pastor sure tried to get us to come forward, it was a joke to him. There are times when the Holy Spirit will lead a pastor to make an altar call, but there are other times when just a seed of love has been hopefully put in a visitor, a seed that will grow and perhaps make them come back. That seed could wither quickly if they are put on the spot with altar calls that aren’t timely in that person’s life. And please don’t trounce me with this, I certainly know that it is important to have altar calls, but they have to be Spirit led.
And if you are having altar calls, please make sure discipleship is available for the newly saved person. Altar calls are not about how many notches on the salvation belt you can tick off, it is also about following up with the person and setting their feet firmly on a path that leads to relationship with Christ.
Then there is the pastor and congregation who through their studies has realized how PAGAN the roots of these holidays are and they stand up on the pulpit on these days and preach that, making sure that everybody knows that we shouldn’t be celebrating these days because of their pagan roots. Yes, these holidays do have pagan roots and in my walk with the Lord I have been changing them from holidays to holy days, but when a visitor comes in – most likely attracted to church by the holiday, is that the time to educate them about pagan roots of the holiday? I kind of am glad for the brouhaha that comes around Christmas and Easter for more people think about God and Jesus at that time than perhaps the rest of the year. If your church is one that has only members and no visitors, preach away about the pagan roots of the religion. If one visitor graces your doorpost, perhaps consider preaching a different message, say one about how much God loves us that He sent His Son to us, that this Son loves us so much that He died for us and rose from the dead so that our sins could be forgiven. We have them in the congregation perhaps twice a year, much better to share God’s love, and be grateful to that pagan holiday that caused them to step through the door in the first place.
And a note to people when visitors come. There are two tendencies, one is to look at the person and examine them, but not befriend them. A friend of mine (who still doesn’t go to church since) told me that once she went to a church and started attending. She was by herself with three kids, her husband did not come. It was around Christmas and the pastor told people to extend the hand of friendship to each other because of Christmas. Well she stood there and not one person came up to her to greet her, they greeted their friends and family. She felt so awkward that she never went back there or to any church. I am still praying for her that she finds a church that will extend love to her. She refused my invitation to attend a church I knew would love her, and has since moved from the area. And the other phenomena can best be described by a non church example. Have you ever gone to a store and walked into a department and three sales clerks descend on you, you feel surrounded, and it removes the desire to browse. It is important when a visitor comes to make them feel welcomed, and perhaps a person can come up and strike a conversation with the person, get to know them. But don’t overkill either. Let the Spirit lead.
Ok, Heather will step down from her soap box. Know that it is experiences in my past that have caused my hackles to rise. I also know that these above behaviors can occur from a genuine heart of love. I just know that as a former pagan (testimony on March 24, 2006) that these above behaviors impacted me negatively. It is only a sincere desire to really reach souls that makes me type the above. And know that I really am typing from MY experience, and this may not be another’s experience.
hisprayerwarrior pointed out something so important that I am adding it on, when people walk in we should be praying for them, praying for our pastor, and those workers who come in contact with the visitor that they will be used by God to help reach these visitors.
Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday/Easter Sunday.
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