For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.
In addition to my role as a Pastor at Legana Christian Church, I work at the Australian Maritime College as a Lecturer in Maritime Operations. One area of training I deliver is a revalidation course for ship’s captains who have been working ashore or and have not been able to maintain their sea-time.
The people undertaking this course sometimes present showing signs of anxiety. They can be worried that they have lost some of the skills that they previously had and concerned that they might look bad in front of their peers and in front of their instructor/assessor. This is understandable given they may not have been near a ship in the last five years.
One of the attributes required for a simulator instructor is patience. It is easy to forget that the instructor has had years of practice in the simulator environment and is familiar with the bridge control interfaces and the handling characteristics of the ship models used for training scenarios. Another attribute that is valuable is having the ability to empathise with the trainees and to recognise ‘where they are at’. This can then be supplemented with encouragement. One of the most rewarding aspects of being involved in maritime training and assessment is witnessing the growth in capability and confidence of people through training and mentoring.
Welcoming people into our church home has many similarities to the maritime revalidation environment. A welcoming environment will encourage spiritual growth.
A Persecutor Attends a Church
The book of Acts provides us with a good case study of a person’s church journey after experiencing a spiritual awakening. Acts chapter 9 describes how a zealous Jewish Man called Saul of Tarsus; an active persecutor of Christians, had a powerful encounter with Jesus while travelling to Damascus to continue his persecution of Christians.
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him and falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Soon after this event a man called Ananias received a vision from the Lord that directed him to meet with Saul or Tarsus. His initial reaction was not unexpected given Saul’s reputation.
But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.
However, God had plans for Saul and corrected Ananias’ initial fear and misgivings.
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
Ananias was obedient and performed the task that God had asked him to perform.
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
This act was helping to set in motion the ministry of the Apostle Paul, however, Paul still had to initially contend with the reputation that his past actions had developed.
And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
From this account, we can see that the love shown by Barnabas greatly assisted in helping Paul’s integration into the church as a new follower of Jesus.
Last Sunday a message was preached about the greatest definition of love. This was based on First Corinthians 13:1-13 and was written by the same man who had to integrate into a church despite the horrific acts he had orchestrated as Saul of Tarsus.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
When we look at these words in the context of creating a patient and welcoming church home, we have clear guidance on how we can be like Barnabas the encourager. When we, as followers of Jesus, reach out to those who may be feeling anxious, guilty or uncertain, we are reflecting the love that Jesus has shown us.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Who knows what plans God has for the next person we are able to warmly and patiently welcome and say the words, “welcome home.”
Your Executive pastor,
Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.
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