Delighted hearts and open doors

Delighted hearts and open doors

The beautiful, handwritten card started out so promisingly. “My husband and I attended your beautiful church on Mother’s Day with our daughter and family who occasionally attend. It was our first visit. I am moved to share how much I enjoyed your service and sermon. “ Great so far.

But it continued. “We settled into a pew, only to be told by a member we were in ‘their spot,’ that they ‘always sit there.’ Apparently, a group of couples always sit in that area. She proceeded to announce it three more times as friends arrived.” She went on to say that though she was angry, by the end of the service, that anger had faded. In fact, she said, “Yes, we’re happy to return, and we will sit elsewhere”—with a smiley face at the end of that last sentence.

I am inclined to put a frowny face in the same place. I cannot tell you how disappointing it is to read a letter like that. I do appreciate how important it is to see our friends each week. But my goodness, we have a big sanctuary with lots of room. Is it really not possible to find some other place to sit if some hapless strangers happen to occupy our normal spot? Surely, surely—please let it be so—that was an unusual occurrence. Surely when newcomers arrive, they experience what I think has always been the usual sense of welcome and hospitality.

I am glad that our new friend was gracious about it and that they plan on returning. But I’m certain that others would not. For them, an inhospitable welcome would be enough to drive them back through the doors they so rarely enter.

Please, my Sweetheart church, please pray that God would give us hearts that are truly delighted every time a new person walks through our doors. Truly delighted at the chance they might have to discover the love of Christ and the welcome—the warm welcome—of a church that has welcomed so many before them.

And if this little note stings a bit—great news! When we tell God we’re sorry, he forgives us. So—say you are sorry, promise never to do it again, and come back to your pew—or the nearest unoccupied facsimile!

Pastor Mark