Greet One Another
Some form of the phrase, “greet one another”, is used in ten of the twenty-one New Testament epistles (“greet all the saints”, “greet the friends”, etc.). It is an admonition that we would do well to heed as we consider our own part in the life of the church.
Initiate a Welcome
In his book Side By Side, Ed Welch says, “A reasonable application of Scripture is to greet one person we don’t know or don’t know very well every time we gather with others in the body of Christ.” (p.76) If we just wanted to be literal about it, we could make that case from the multiple times we are encouraged to do so as referenced above. But we also know intuitively how important a greeting is – and not just from the person standing at the door handing out bulletins.
When I have visited churches, especially small churches, the music and the sermon are important, but the question I ask when I leave is, “Did anyone say hi to me?” I’m not expecting to meet my new best friend, but did anyone care that I was there? It is surprising how often the answer has been no. I certainly want good worship and good doctrine, but God created us for relationships, first with himself, and also with others. We should find both in the church and that starts with a greeting.
Some might say that they are not good at greeting. Introverts by nature, they are uncomfortable initiating a greeting; they don’t know what to say and would prefer to leave the greeting to the extroverts. Being an introvert myself I get that. Fellow introverts, take courage! This is something that can be learned, and honestly, the bar is not that high. “Hello, my name is Richard. Thanks for coming today. How did you hear about us? Have a good week.” It’s really that simple. This may be a step of faith for you. Take it.
Be quick to listen (James 1:19)
Greeting visitors is something that every person in the church should consider a personal responsibility. It’s okay if that initial conversation is superficial. In most cases, it will be, and some of our relationships will not go much deeper than a friendly greeting. If we want to get beyond the superficial (and yes, we do), another skill we need to develop is listening.
It is easy (and good) to have your list of questions to ask but it won’t take long to exhaust that list. Then what? To go beyond the niceties of where a person is from and how they heard about us requires that you listen in those conversations to what is important to the other person. Do they talk about family? Are they in a transition? Is there something they are hoping for? Those kinds of comments from a person may be invitations to more significant conversations.
When listening for things that are important, keep some things in mind:
- Take your time. Invite conversation but don’t force it. People will share more when they are ready.
- Don’t give advice unless someone asks for it. Sometimes we want to encourage people by helping them solve a problem. Don’t do it. Encourage them by listening.
- Don’t trump their story with yours. It can be good to share common experiences but be careful not to make yourself and your experience the focus of the conversation.
Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Every person who walks into our church would like to leave encouraged. That is true for the person who has been here from the beginning to the person visiting for the first time. There are a variety of ways this can happen including music, prayer, and preaching, but for most of us it is going to happen (or not) in relationships.
Let’s encourage one another, and especially our visitors, by initiating a greeting and by listening well. Some of those visitors will return and some will not. Let’s make sure they all know we cared that they came.