It all started at the beginning of tour.
Jen (my intern) and I were at the satellite campus of this huge church, hiding out in the back row, while the pastor preached over the screen about how much he loved the congregation.
When he said, “I may not know your name, but I love you and pray for you everyday!” my critical side came out. (Which is a problem. I’m working on it.)
I sat there thinking: “Right. You love us but you don’t even know our name. Do you even know what love is?! Look at the definition of love! Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Maybe you feel an emotional connection, but I don’t think it’s possible to really love us if you don’t know us!”
Maybe I’m totally off my rocker here, but it seemed weird to me.
When the pastor finished preaching, the campus pastor got up, continuing on this track: “He really means it when he says he loves you. This screen may be the closest you ever get to him, but he really loves you.”
(Cue collective gasp.)
Jen looked at me with a mischievous glint in her eye. “Tiffany, I think they really love us! Let’s go see if they really love us!”
So we walked out into the lobby. And we just stood there.
One minute. Two. Three. I lost count, but it felt like forever.
NOT ONE PERSON SAID HELLO.
I know, I know. We could have said hi. But we were curious if anyone would approach us first.
Finally Jen awkwardly laughed, “Okay, I feel really loved. But let’s go now.” (I was more than ready!)
It became an experiment that we conducted in churches across the country. Over and over, NO ONE SAID HELLO!!
I couldn’t believe it! Shouldn’t churches be the friendliest places on earth, because we’re filled with God’s love and welcome for people? So why doesn’t anyone say hello??
That made me step back and think:
When I’m at my home church, do I say hello?
Do I actively seek out new faces and welcome them? Or are people coming in and out of my church without anyone saying a word to them?
Because really it all comes down to each of us doing our part. If I stand back and wait for someone else to do something, it’ll never get done. And plus, how can I find fault if I’m not willing to be part of the solution?
So my first Sunday back from tour, I promptly joined the hospitality team at my church. I want to be a smiling, genuinely welcoming face at the door, who will stop and talk with people. On Sundays I try to notice if there are new faces sitting around me so I can talk to them. (Plus, it’s great for meeting people and making new friends.)
Today was my first day on hospitality team, and I met SO MANY PEOPLE!! I had no idea half these people even went to my church! Not only was I having a ball, but I hope people truly felt welcomed.
Okay so there was a redeeming quality to this experiment:
We were getting really depressed with the results, but on our very last Sunday of tour, we were visiting this church outside of Detroit, MI. This older lady called to us from all the way across the parking lot, “Aren’t these shoes HOT?! I just got them!!” (They were truly hot stilettos! I wanted them.)
She drew us right into her conversation, introduced us to people, the pastor came over to say hi, and we had never felt so welcomed. Jen and I just stared at each other in disbelief.
Finally we had found a church that says hello.
And that’s the kind of church I want to be.