Recently I was having a conversation with someone who was discouraged at how they didn’t feel welcome at their church home. They told me they just didn’t feel connected and that in the year they had attended their church only a handful of people had even said hello to them, let alone held a meaningful conversation with them. As I listened to him speak, I began to thank God for the beautiful, welcoming spirit we have at New Hope. On a typical Sunday morning, I can look around our sanctuary and see multiple members of our church reaching out to new families, having conversations with a first-time guest, and even inviting them out to lunch. That is such a beautiful thing!
This weekend is Easter Sunday. In America, Easter Sunday is the highest attended church weekend of the year. (For other countries it’s Christmas.) Easter is the one weekend, above all others, where unchurched people will consider an invitation to attend church if asked by a friend. It is also a time that many believers who have been disconnected from the church will return. Over the past month, we’ve gone through the message series 8 to 15: The World is Smaller Than You Think so that we could begin praying for and reaching out to our extended community of friends. God invites us to be used for His Kingdom, which involves sharing Christ with the people we care about, and even those who we don’t know at all.
With all that being said, we will see some new faces this weekend, and my prayer is that the welcoming spirit that is at the heart of New Hope will be on full display! Easter Sunday will bring us plenty of first-time guests, visiting family members, and even some folks who are wanting to know what this whole Jesus story is all about. As a church, we should all be working together to make all people feel as welcome as possible.
For the believers who grew up in church, Easter Sunday is about traditions and being with your family. However, what if we viewed Easter as a chance for us to put aside our personal traditions so we can show those who don’t know Jesus how much we care about them? The truth is, it should be our heart’s desire that everyone who walks through the church doors this Sunday feels the love of Jesus through His people and a connection to Jesus through the Holy Spirit. We have a responsibility as believers to clear a path for all who are trying to reach Jesus, and here are just a few ways that the members of New Hope can help clear that path…
1. Leave the parking spaces closest to the main entrances for guests, expectant mothers, and senior adults. We all like to have the closest parking space when we go to the store or restaurant, and this is no different in the church world. However, those of us who are familiar with the church and are actively involved in attending should leave those spots open for people who are new or have a physical need that necessitates a closer parking space. I’ve heard a few stories over the years of people who wanted to attend church during Easter but couldn’t find a parking spot, so they drove around the parking lot, circled it a few times, and then went home.
2. Greet someone with a smile and introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. New Hope members do an excellent job at this. I want to encourage you to reach out and say hello to people this Sunday. A friendly smiling face always goes a long way in helping people feel at ease.
3. Give up your seat. Fill the seats in the front of the sanctuary first. Wow, this will be a tough one, I know! But I came across the writing of another prominent church pastor who stated the following, “We all run behind schedule at times for various reasons. Late comers and guests do not like to be paraded before the entire congregation on their way to search for a seat. If you fill the seats up front first (and scoot in toward the middle), then visitors and late comers can slip in without having to walk in front of the entire congregation.” The first few pews in New Hope’s sanctuary are usually open. This would be a great week for those pews to be filled up first with regular attending members.
4. Help Guests, Children, and all others find their way. Many people will walk into New Hope for the first time this weekend. If someone appears lost or doesn’t know how to get their baby (or child) checked into the Children’s Ministry, this would be the perfect time to help.
5. Attend the Because He Lives: Night of Worship on Wednesday @ 6:30 PM. This Wednesday we will gather together to worship our Lord. There will be music and times when we pray. This would be the perfect opportunity for the members of New Hope to gather together and lift up all the people who will be attending church this Sunday for the first time this year. Here is one way to look at the events of this week, Wednesday night worship is for the edification and building up of the body of Christ, Easter Sunday is for reaching out and offering hope to those who need Jesus.
6. Volunteer to Help. This weekend will be the highest attended Sunday morning at New Hope. That means more babies in the nursery, more toddlers in the pre-K and Kindergarten class, and more children in the Children’s Ministry. We need help! Sometimes the greatest gift you can give a visiting mother is the security of knowing that she can drop her child off at a nursery that is well-volunteered and completely under control. I know we all want to be in church together, but God smiles when we sacrifice for others. This would be a noble example of that.
I am looking forward to being with you for the Because He Lives: Night of Worship and the worship service on Easter Sunday. Please join me in praying that the Holy Spirit will fill the sanctuary on both occasions and that God would be glorified as people come to know Christ and find the Hope that comes from His glorious resurrection!