Thursday, July 3, 2014
Sunday, March 4, 2012
It was our second day in Asia. The night before, I had experienced my first “English Corner” – an opportunity to meet students, speak to them in English, and share with them my culture, my experiences, and most of all, my faith in Christ. In our initial English corner, I was the first one Ellen chose to tell that she had become a Christian. Her joy was contagious! Others in the group had not yet believed. “I believe in myself,” one girl offered, but went on to describe her frustration that she could not reach her life’s pursuits. Another agreed, “I want to go forward, but I can only go right or left.” He went on to explain the emptiness he was feeling. From there I was able to understand what they were saying and moved to present Christ as the answer. As I shared with them, you could see the light of understanding begin to open their eyes to the promise of the gospel. They did not yet believe, but I could sense the Spirit at work drawing their hearts to him. My heart cried out to see them receive the Savior.
But this was day two. We men went to a local university to meet up with two college age workers there who were trying to meet students and set up their own English corner. Our task – to meet as many students as we could and invite them to the English corner that night. I suggested the library – partly because I knew there would be students there and partly because the library feels like a second home to me. As we went to the floor where students gathered to study and socialize, we were immediately surrounded by people curious to speak to a foreigner. I was able to meet several students and invite them to the English corner that night. None of these students knew our workers and, more significantly, none of them knew Christ. The energy was exciting. We were helping build intentional relationships with these students with the hopes that they would come to Christ. Many would come that night and new friendships would begin along with opportunities to share the message of Christ.
We were leaving the library when all of a sudden I was overwhelmed. A rush of emotion came over me and I stepped into a corner behind a large pillar. As soon as I was out of sight, the tears came. I could hear our team leader ask, “Where did Todd go.” Then he found me. “What’s wrong? – but I didn’t say anything, I just held up my hand with a gesture that meant “just give me a minute”. Immediately he knew. He too had had a similar experience his first time in country. What had come over me at that moment was an overwhelming sorrow – a sense of spiritual darkness knowing that all these students were without Christ, without the gospel, and thus without hope. Yes, we would begin making inroads with these few and maybe even have some impact for the kingdom – but for every student we met that day, there were tens of thousands of others without the gospel and with no one to tell them. How could I remain unmoved by so many sheep without a shepherd?
As I’ve reflected back at that moment, I have rehearsed it in my mind. What came over me that day? Why was I so moved? More importantly, why am I so UN-moved most of the time? Why am I not overwhelmed by the lostness around me? Why am I not compelled to sacrifice my time, my possessions, my very life to take the gospel to the nations and to my own community? Where is the passion for the gospel – not for an idea, but an overwhelming burden to be a light in the darkness? Something has to change – I don’t want to waste my life with vain pursuits, but empty myself for the cause of Christ.
I thank God for his promise that “Whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” But Paul went on to ask in Romans 10:14-15, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?”
Lord, I don’t want a temporary emotional response – I want a Holy Spirit anointing as a minister of the gospel! Lord, fill me with your Spirit! Grant me a burden to see the lost found! Grant me the boldness to preach the good news! Grant that we be a sending people and send us out with Your good news! Lord, raise up laborers for Your harvest!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
At my church, we will be having an open house service in a couple weeks in which we have specifically invited everyone our church has touched this year. We expect several guest families to come and potentially many more than that. With the open house in mind, I thought I’d offer a few tips I’m sharing with my congregation to make our guests feel welcome. Really, these ideas are useful on any Sunday and so I’m presenting them here on the blog:
1. Arrive on time or early. While this is especially true for greeters, nursery workers, and Sunday school teachers, it’s a good habit for all of us. Visitors are most often on time. Coming to church as a visitor is awkward already. It becomes even more awkward to walk into an empty church or be directed to an empty classroom. More than one visitor has done a “drive-by” at a church and never came in the door because there were too few cars in the parking lot. Arriving on time communicates that you value what is taking place and that others should value it too.
2. Everyone is a greeter. Yes, most churches assign greeters each week to hand out bulletins, welcome packets, and give general directions. Still, after an initial greeting, many visitors feel awkwardly alone and out of place. All church members should see themselves as greeters too and be aware of those visitors among them. So introduce yourself, show guests where to go, ask if they got a welcome packet, invite them to attend class with you or sit with your family, introduce them to other church members, include them in your conversations. Don’t just say “hello.” Go the extra mile to make guests feel like they could be a part of your church.
3. Observe the “three minute rule.” Most visitors leave within three minutes of the close of the service while church members linger for ten to fifteen minutes. Make a special effort to use the first three minutes after the service to engage a visitor. Let them know how glad you are that they came. Try to get to know them a little better. If you have after church lunch plans with other church members, or are having a small group or other gathering that week, invite them to come along.
These are just a few ideas to help you be more effective in making your guests feel welcome. Help visitors see a real opportunity to be one of you and not an outsider. I’m glad to be part of a church with outstanding fellowship. We’re working hard to make it an open and expanding fellowship!
I got the idea for the “3-minute rule” from Ed Stetzer.