It’s right about now when the churches start busting at the seams with congregants who don’t usually attend. It will remain this way until January, after most have returned to daily life once the holiday hangover has passed. The usual suspects will remain in the pews.
The parking lots are full – us regulars have to park a country mile away when we’re used to just a small little jaunt.
The pews are crowded – us regulars are finding less room to spread out, to move.
The Sunday school classes for our children are busting at the seams – us regulars grin and bear it.
There once was a time when I found myself self-righteously clucking my tongue at these people who showed up on the holidays only and crowded those of us who attend regularly out of “our space.”
Seriously. I wish I were kidding but alas, here’s an ugly side of my person revealed.
Precisely the kind of attitude that absolultely discouraged those who tried to go to church once upon a time but quit because they weren’t welcomed just as they are. Or because they didn’t fit the “mold”. Or because they didn’t know anyone and no one reached out to them. They weren’t in a clique.
Author Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote in his blog “Jesus Needs New PR” a post entitled “Why Are Christians So…” He “Googled” the title phrase and found this:
The following words automatically pop-up when you type “Why are Christians so” in the Google search bar: stupid, mean, ignorant, hateful, intolerant, angry, dumb, crazy, arrogant, and gullible.
How wonderful. Yeah, right.
One of the comments on Turner’s post stated that Buddhists fared the best with this little “Google test” – their adjectives came up as happy, peaceful, enlightened.
If you are on the fence with what you believe, who would you rather join? The ones that are mean, ignorant, and intolerant or the ones that are happy, peaceful, and enlightened?
I recently made it a commitment to wake-up before my children and sip a cup of coffee while reading God’s word. I slip on some days and end up reading in the afternoon, but for the most part, I’ve stayed the course.
Something really good is happening.
I’m finding that those cynical, negative thoughts and irritations, such as being frustrated by the amount of people attending church during the holiday season, are on their way out. Not gone entirely, no. But leaving.
I’m not suggesting that reading your Bible daily is a magical “cure-all.” It won’t make you lose 30 pounds or decrease fine lines around your eyes. It won’t guarantee that life will always be rosy and that your prayers will forever be answered just how you want them to be.
But it will fill you up with more of the Holy Spirit and give you tools for battle on those hard days that feel like you are waging a war all by yourself.
This past Sunday when I discovered our church was jam-packed, my first thought was “This is wonderful.”
Because it is.
If only ONE person out of the holiday congregants decides to follow Jesus, then it’s worth it to me. Cliche and yet so true.
So during this crowded church season, I’m making it a personal goal to smile to the newcomers. To say hello. To introduce our family and myself.
To just simply show love.
I want to change those ugly words to loving, peaceful, helpful, Christ-focused, generous, and compassionate.
And we can do it – one person at a time.
I’m linking up with sweet Jen for the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood. You will want to check this crew out – trust me!
Amen sistah! Put our ‘love on’ and welcome them to the ‘heart hospital’ for sinners.
I second that Lyn…Beautiful.
loved this post…just what i needed! it’s sad to read about the whole google thing though….although i have to admit that i’m not surprised. i’m southern baptist and there are more negative thoughts and feelings towards my denomination than i care to really think about. and i’ll admit even more by saying that prior to coming yo my church and being saved, i had the same preconceptions about the folks in my church. and i’ll admit even MORE by saying that many of those notions were proven true. BUT, i have started praying for my church…..praying for those people (and myself) who need to make changes in their lives and attitudes instead of grumbling about them. after reading your post, i need to make sure that i’m doing the same for the “holiday crowd”!!
.-= alison´s last blog ..a pre-thanksgiving thanksgiving =-.
I love what God is stirring in your heart! Blessings to you, Natalie.
I ditto the “Beautiful!!!!”
I do think we can get ‘self righteous’ or come off to people like we are if we aren’t forthright with our LOVE and compassion towards one another. I think that is a huge turn off to an unbeliever. Frankly? As a believer, I get sick of it too. Jesus doesn’t pick favorites or give someone a bigger or better task than another. We are all important to Him. He made us for His pleasure, isn’t that a great thought?
Enjoy your season of loving those around you this season!
.-= marlece´s last blog ..seasons and change =-.
jesus is so gooooood! we will “get it” eventually. i love your honesty natalie, it’s what draws me back. i am happy for you. this reminds me of a documentary i once saw called “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers”. i really enjoyed that one. i am a documentary freak, which sounds really nerdy, as i’m really on the “duh” side…
I love this too! You are right and we need Him. Not His Stuff or church or even each other…but Him. The other stuff comes and we find each other in mission (what I wrote about this week;) but first things first. I admire the ‘up before kids’ so…not my strong suit, but He is with me and loves me so and yes, you, so,so,so much! Be blessed today:)
.-= Abby´s last blog ..Mor Mor’s Multitudes =-.
Your honesty in this post will be used for His glory. The more we confess our sins and see the error of our ways – and share them in a public way – the more people will see that Jesus still loves us, not matter what junk is in our hearts. It gives others hope that they don’t have to be perfect either.
.-= Jen´s last blog ..A Numbers Game & Soli Deo Gloria Link-up =-.
Funny story for you — we’ve been coming to Covenant for almost 8 years now, and during this season, we invariably get lovely people (such as yourself) who decide that this is the time to be extra open and loving and greet their pew neighbors. You would laugh at the number of times people asked us if it were our first time visiting. I suppose it’s because we are almost always late (a.k.a. getting there right on time, but having to get all the kids to their classrooms before arriving at the service), or perhaps it’s because we don’t have a “regular” place to sit, or even because we will switch which service we go to depending on whether or not we have to travel to see family that afternoon. I guess that’s the benefit of having a very big church family, too. You can always meet someone new who may have been put in the pew next to you for a reason. :)
On another note — my youngest sister prides herself on never having missed a Midnight Mass. I used to get annoyed too that she would only make that special effort for one service (and then look down her nose at the rest of us who missed it because of traveling), but now I rejoice that she still does make it — even if it is only one service. I just pray that someday this will turn into a stepping stone for her to turn the corner and walk the path of a believer. :) :)
Love. It. Needed. It.
.-= Ordinary Em´s last blog ..Whew! Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled =-.
Oh my gosh…I love that you actually included the google clip. Y
ep, that’s what people think of us. I think that’s something we can all work on…”just showing love”.
.-= Amy Sullivan´s last blog ..Plastic and Disposable =-.
Showing love is key, and we all need to work on that. I can attest to the not being spoken to as a new person at church. I have found a church in the area we moved to recently, but to be honest not too many people have made an effort to make me feel too welcome.
.-= Sarah Morales´s last blog ..Actions Speak Louder than Words =-.
I struggle with aligning myself with the word Christian alot. because of what you mentioned. I have always thought what Ghandi said spoke such volumes about us… “I like your Christ I do not like your Christians” I know something I work really hard on is loving people…where they are…not where I would like them to be. It is so hard but worth it I know….Thanks for this beautiful post…your words are challenging… :o)
I adore your heart my friend.
.-= Christy´s last blog ..The Wednesday What =-.
Natalie, how I’ve missed you!!! I’ve been MIA for a while! Beautiful post. The title immediately made me think of Casting Crowns’ song by the same name. =) Hope you and your family are doing well!!
.-= MandyP´s last blog ..Ive Been Pregnant For 15 1-2 Months =-.