Why You Should Stop Telling People You Missed Them in Church
- Laura Polk Author
- 2017 6 Apr
Don’t shoot the messenger. But when new people of faith come to your church, they’re waiting for you to judge them.
They have been brought there because something about Christianity has touched them. Maybe they’ve investigated Jesus a little, and they want to see if there’s any truth to His teachings. They are blindly trusting that you have their best interests at heart. That they will be allowed to be exposed to your faith without being pulled relentlessly into it.
The fact that God somehow drew them to your particular church is a miracle of sorts. They are intimidated. They are nervous. They may even be scared of what they are going to go through and who is going to approach them.
With some people, this is a limited opportunity. Their interest has already been piqued or they wouldn’t be there. If they happily discover that there’s some truth to what they hoped for, they’ll return to dip in a little deeper next time.
That is, if you don’t scare them off.
It’s safe to assume that they are entering your church with a lifetime of misunderstandings about Christianity. About people like you. A lifetime of watching how Christians are represented in media (not well, in case you’re wondering), and they are hoping against hope that you truly are a Christian who will reflect Christ. That you will accept them. That you will gently explain the faith. That you will welcome them. That you will not judge them.
So when they take time to digest all of this and then return a few weeks later, only to have you tell them you missed them in church, it can come off in one of four ways.
“Hey! I really missed you last week in church. I’m glad you’re back.”
“Hey! I noticed you weren’t in church last week, which is weird because I saw on Facebook that you were eating wings in town for lunch. So obviously, you had time and made the wrong choice. You should probably go to church for that.”
“Hey! I noticed you weren’t in church last week, but I was there. So, I guess Jesus loves me more right now. Later.”
- “Hey! I noticed you weren’t in church last week, but I was there. If you’re going to really do this whole Christian walk, you need to quit being so lazy.”
The chance of it coming off as number one is not likely. Coming to faith late in life I’ve been told this so many times, at so many different churches, and I need you to understand that it turned me away—not toward—those particular churches. And while I understand that the church isn’t meant to mold to my needs and wants, it is meant to reach the unchurched. And we should avoid doing anything that might hinder that.
If we look through the Bible, there’s not a single instance of Jesus pointing someone out in the crowd and saying “Oh, hey there! I saw you in the crowd following me last week, but I noticed you weren’t there today. So what gives? Are you lazy? Not committed? Don’t think I’m good enough for you?”
Because that would be divisive. And Jesus didn’t like that in people.
“When Jesus noticed this, he was angry and said to his disciples, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I assure you that whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.’” (Mark 10:14-15)
Instead, he would welcome those of little faith, of beginning (childlike) faith. Those who were so broken they could barely bring themselves to him. People who had been so harmed by society that all they could manage was to touch the hem of his robe. People who needed a physician for their spiritual wounds.
Jesus welcomed them with open arms, and without judging the path they took to get there. He wanted to relieve their burdens, not pile onto them.
If he never saw them again, it was enough for him to give them a moment of love. Something he likely hoped would touch them in such a way that they began to turn from their lives and look more closely at his. But, he didn’t shame them if they didn’t drop everything and run after him at their first encounter. And he didn’t warn them that they’d better come back or the deal was off.
When you tell someone you don’t know well enough to know their entire life story that you missed them in church, it comes off as a passive-aggressive attempt at making someone feel guilty for not being there. Unless you’ve invested the time to get to know them deeply, you don’t have the right to take that risk.
If you genuinely missed them in church and want to get to know that story better, then the next time you see them welcome them with open arms and friendship. Show them how their new Christian friend is different from the rest of the world. Different from other Christians they’ve known in their lifetime. Ask them about their life. Invite them to lunch.
But, for the love, you can’t truthfully miss someone you don’t even know—and they know it.
Laura Polk is a writer, speaker, and textile designer residing in North Carolina with her three children. Since becoming a single mom, her passion to minister to this group has led her to encourage successful single mom living through The Christian Single Mom on Facebook. Follow her journey through her blog or get a glimpse into her quirky thoughts and inspirations for design and writing on Pinterest.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/digitalskillet