I remember the first time my husband and I came to Faith Bible Church. It was just over three years ago, actually. I recall thinking to myself as we pulled into the parking lot, “This is perfect!” Not too big but big enough to get lost in the crowd if we wanted to, and we wanted to! We had strayed away from church over the years, and more specifically we had strayed away from Jesus, and we were hurting because of it. It was only after we found ourselves in crisis that we truly started to understand the consequences of living a life without Christ. We knew we had to get back into it, this time for real and for keeps. We found ourselves church shopping, trying to find a place that would be a good fit for our family while also attempting to fly under the radar so we could take it all in. Things did not go exactly as planned!
We were of course greeted at the door, firm handshakes and big smiles. Upon entering the building we cautiously observed, taking in the crowds of people standing around chatting, laughing, and waving to get the attention of another friend from across the room. Kids were running around their parents’ feet, glancing eagerly to see a familiar face they might be able to run off with. It was wonderful and overwhelming, exciting and intimidating.
There was no reservation or hesitation; we were immediately pegged as newbies and promptly invited to lunch after church.
Slowly we followed our noses to the smell of fresh coffee and donuts. Where there is coffee there are sure to be more people. We carefully gathered our goodies and continued to take in our surroundings. “I haven't seen you here before! Are you new?” A man standing next to us with a gracious yet knowing smile had found us out. So much for flying under the radar! We exchanged a few pleasantries before the lights began to flicker, indicating that the service was about to begin. I immediately found myself feeling relieved that our presence would soon go unnoticed as the congregation faced the pulpit.
We found our seats and settled in for the service to begin. Before any preaching could start however, we were all asked to turn to our neighbors and say hello. I figured it was a quick and common request so we said our greetings and thought we were in the clear, until the couple in front of us turned around. There was no reservation or hesitation; we were immediately pegged as newbies and promptly invited to lunch after church. Despite that being completely out of our comfort zone, we accepted. If we were going to do this we might as well do it all the way! I am happy to say that they are dear friends of ours to this day!
That was day one at Faith Bible Church. That was also the day that we realized we had found the place we wanted to call our church home. In the three years that have come and gone since then we have built countless relationships with a number of different people in different seasons of life. We have found mentors in older couples who have years and wisdom to share. There are seasoned parents who are always ready and willing to come alongside you with encouragement and understanding. I have met so many wonderful women who have become so dear to me; we get together for coffee, prayer, rich conversation, and always more than a few laughs. There have been dinner parties, barbecues, birthdays, and game nights. There have also been seminars, prayer meetings, growth groups, and Bible studies. It has been a joy and a blessing to experience fellowship in such a true and meaningful way.
As we approach the holiday season, specifically entering the month of November, the idea of thankfulness and gathering has been pressed upon my heart. Like 1 Chronicles 16:8 says, “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” I find that this time of year gets me excited for thanksgiving and fellowship. When a person arrives and tries to get lost in the crowd, it feels like an even more joyful time to be seeking them out and welcoming them into the fold. For those who are just walking through those doors for the first time, maybe a bit weary and apprehensive, that sense of belonging can be such an important and determining factor in deciding if they come back. We have a unique opportunity to reach out and let people know that we see them and we are happy to have them join us!
The trouble comes when we forget to seek out new faces. We run in to one friend who we didn't have a chance to see last week, then we see our Bible study leader and want to ask them a question about the upcoming lesson, and maybe the kids are just a little too rowdy and it's time to get home for lunch. When we overlook people, they get lost in the mix and we miss out on beautiful opportunities to foster new relationships with those seeking fellowship in the body of Christ. Hebrews 13:1–2 is a reminder to us all: “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware.”
When we overlook people, they get lost in the mix and we miss out on beautiful opportunities to foster new relationships with those seeking fellowship in the body of Christ.
It is hard to believe that we have only been at FBC for three years. We have lived a lot of life in that span of time and our church family was a huge part of so much of that. Having people to pray for you and with you, being able to gather and celebrate the joy of the Lord, and being sanctified within a body of believers is such a rich and wonderful experience. I am thankful for it everyday and I only hope that, as ambassadors of Christ, we will continue to show that same love and fellowship to other unfamiliar faces as they walk through those front doors on Sunday. Three years ago it changed our lives, and I encourage you to remember that the next time you see someone new! “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:11–12)