Visiting another church yesterday, I noticed some things. I don’t think a single one of these noticements represents anything really new in terms of thoughts presented on this blog, and yet, because my head and heart have seemed vacant of any significant new thoughts for some hours, and because I think these things deserve repeating, I will repeat them.
1. First impressions should not be the end-all, from the individual visitor’s vantage point, but they are important from the church’s vantage point. We were essentially ignored as we walked in–people going about their business and not fussing over our unfamiliar faces. This was a good thing, in my book. Not much worse for a cynic-introvert than to have someone pay too much attention to him for no apparent reason. I don’t want to be part of a greeting program or to contribute to statistics of how many visitors were greeted as they walked through the doors this month. Just be yourselves, and let me observe and see if I could “fit in.”
2. Bulletins were offered to us by relatively unfriendly older folks who had probably been offering bulletins to people for years. This was no big deal. Just doing their jobs. But, I would add, even though it’s kinda cool for Wal-mart to give a greeter job to an old guy with B.O. and a scraggly beard and a shirt buttoned crookedly, or to a person with an obvious physical handicap, those kinds of folks really aren’t, in the end, well suited to be greeters at Wal-mart. Neither are blank faces of blue-haired septagenarians who just grab the bulletins evry week and start shoving them in people’s hands well suited to welcoming people who enter the church hall. This is not their “gift” just because it’s something they’ve been doing for 30 years.
3. When we sat down, the preacher came to greet us. I didn’t notice whether someone had pointed us out to him (hey! there are some new people! let’s get the preacher to go meet them!), but he seemed aware and personable. His interest in us seemed genuine, and — get this — it’s the best of all — he DIDN’T introduce himself as “Paster Mike!” He just said, “I’m Mike.” I absolutely LOVED that. Of course I knew he was the lead staff minister. I could’ve smelt him out at 40 paces, even if I hadn’t seen his picture on the website the night before. But there is no need to separate oneself from the pack by classifying at first meeting. Congratulations, Mike of Christ Community Church. You impressed me with your sincere greeting and lack of clergy distinction! And thanks, too, to the couple who sat in front of us and conversed with us much more than they “had to.” I can forgive that they support a “young earth” faith position because they actually care about such things and moved past the weather in order to share something important to them.
4. The second-in-command clergyman was in charge of opening greetings, announcements, and prayer. His prayer was the most naturally, articulately worshipful I’ve heard in a good year. I appreciated so much his thoughtful choice of words and his blend of the natural and the divine. I could say similar things about the portions of Mike’s sermon I heard, but hey, diddle-diddle, I’d rather affirm the second-fiddle….
5. The worst things about our experience were relatively unimportant … and yet important. First, several of the rooms didn’t seem to be all that clean. I know I wouldn’t have wanted Jedd to play on the floor, and he probably regularly gets dog hair in his mouth from our floor, so this is really saying something. I just didn’t get the impression that this place was cared for all that well.
6. And finally, the procedural issues with congregational worship were of the garden variety:
a. Guy changing PowerPoint slides was consistently a couple of seconds late in changing to the new slide, and 2 or 3 slides behind a couple of times. Very embarrassing!
b. No music was provided for any of the songs, rendering literate people incapable of singing with the congregation when the songs were unfamiliar. This is inexcusable. Every church with a CCLI license and the resources to project images should at the very least project the melody line. It’s free! (And leaders/praise teams should sing the songs as written, both rhythmically and pitch-wise, so congregants don’t feel stupid trying to sing along with them but not being in sync.)