Let My Laughter Resound!
A GRAND SURPRISE FOR A NEWCOMER!
I suppose it is ‘common knowledge’ that the numerical growth in a small local church is slow and painstaking. Occasionally there is a person (believer or non-believer) who actually ‘seeks out’ a small local church to attend. Some persons like the atmosphere and the ‘closeness’ and the familiarity which a small church has to offer. There are some persons who don’t want to ‘be lost in the crowd’ in a large church. They want to be seen and to be recognized by the ‘handful of parishioners’ in a small church. They want to be greeted by several persons in a smaller church, right from the time they first enter the church’s front door. They want to be seen by the pastor (not just by the greeters), and they want to be known and appreciated by the pastor in a more personable manner; in other words, they don’t want to he a mere ‘statistic’ (a person to be ‘counted’).
In a small church, it is ‘easy’ for the pastor to ‘spot’ the newcomer, and it is usually quite ‘easy’ for the pastor to ‘seek out’ the newcomer to have a meaningful visit with him/her. Pastors of small churches tend to ‘value’ a newcomer very much, for there are not many newcomers who choose to attend a small church. Growth usually comes slowly in a small church, because most newcomers to a community tend to be drawn to a large church, where there are many established programs.
In smaller churches, when a newcomer enters the front door, there is a tendency for several members of the small church to ‘gang up’ on the newcomer! The members of the small church are so desirous to ‘find new persons’ to become a ‘part’ of their church, that they express their excitement in seeing a newcomer, in exuberant ways. Members quickly ‘gravitate’ towards the newcomer, and the newcomer sometimes finds himself ‘overwhelmed’ by the expressions of ‘welcome’!
When I was a young pastor of a small local church, many years ago, I oftentimes would stand near the church front door (along with the head greeter), to ‘reach out in love and friendliness’ to the church members, as they entered the church foyer. I enjoyed having a short ‘chat’ with several persons, and sometimes I would even exchange a gentle hug with a few folks (‘the hugging types’).
It did not happen often, but occasionally I would ‘spot’ a newcomer, and, of course, when that happened, I immediately experienced some inner excitement! Perhaps our church would soon be encouraged to welcome a newcomer as a ‘regular’ new member of our congregation! The Lord knows, we need some new parishioners – parishioners who are committed and talented and spiritual and loving. Parishioners who would bring ‘fresh ideas’ and ‘fresh zeal and enthusiasm’ to our church ‘family’! And, even though I did not like to admit it, I wanted new parishioners who would put money in the offering plate! Parishioners who would love ‘our people’, and who would quickly become incorporated into the ‘body of Christ’!
I am quite sure that it was not only l, but also several of our church leaders, who entertained these above-mentioned ‘sentiments’ – regarding the ‘value’ of meeting newcomers and of (hopefully) incorporating them into our small and struggling local church.
On one particular Sunday morning (so long ago, when I was a young ‘eager, beaver pastor’), a single young man entered the front door of our small church. I was standing in the foyer, and I had already greeted several of our ‘regular members’. One young man (a leader in our church) was standing beside me. Of course, I immediately recognized this well-dressed young man (a man probably in his middle 30’s) as a ‘newcomer’ (that is, a man who had never attended our church services).
As usual, I was exuberant when I saw a ‘new face’ – a newcomer that had found his way to our church to attend a service! I approached him with all the ‘warmth of friendliness’ that I possibly possessed. I told him how glad we were to have him attend our service this Sunday morning! As it was my ‘custom’, I reached out my hand, to shake his hand! Shock of all shocks, when I clasped his hand, I also ‘got a hold of his necktie’ – and, as I shook his hand, I pulled his ‘clip on necktie’ off of him! When my handshake was completed, I had his necktie in my hand! I could not believe it! Of course, he was embarrassed, and I was embarrassed, and my friend (who loves to tease) was also embarrassed!
How could I pull such a ‘stunt’? A newcomer, of all things! I knew then, after this embarrassing fiasco, that this newcomer would not have a favorable impression of me (a pastor) or of the small church where he chose to attend for one service!
I would not have been surprised if the newcomer would have turned around, after that ‘stunt’, and would have made his way out of the church, and never returned! It is true that he never returned to visit our church again, after that memorable Sunday.
To his credit, this newcomer did ‘recover from his embarrassment’, sufficiently, to enable him to go into the sanctuary to ‘worship’ that particular morning. He probably was so ‘shook up’ from this incident, that he had a challenge to keep his mind on the sermon, on that particular unusual Sunday morning.
When I got my hand tangled with his tie, at least it was a ‘clip-on tie’. When I was unaware I pulled down on his tie, at least the tie ‘came off’. If it had been a ‘regular tie’, my jerking on the tie might have left a ‘red spot’ on his neck! I might have been ‘sued’ for ‘tie damage’! What a morning! Shall I ‘laugh’ or shall I ‘weep’, when I recall that ‘odd’ happening, of so many years ago! I think I shall ‘laugh’ when I think about my contact with that stranger!
“Biblical Foundation For The Sanctity Of Human Life!”