Jump Start # 2115
1 Corinthians 14:25 “the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship god, declaring that God is certainly among you.”
In a time of spiritual gifts, Paul was showing the value of prophecy over speaking in tongues. One valid point, made here in our verse today, is that an unbeliever among them would have his heart disclosed by these prophets. This would prove that God was among these people.
A side lesson this shows us that Paul understood that unbelievers would be in the worship with the believers. Was this unbeliever a grown child or married to one of the members? Was it someone who had been invited? Those details are not expressed nor change the thought that Paul is addressing.
But for us, it allows us to consider another thought. Recently, we developed a series of our Jump Starts on “the church that welcomes.” It’s the idea that a church considers things from the standpoint of a visitor. Sometimes you are I are the visitor. We go on vacation. Work takes us to different places. We find ourselves in another congregation on Sunday morning. Somethings are familiar and they should be. If everyone is following the same N.T. pattern, worship ought to have some familiarity to it whether we are at our home congregation or far away. It’s like playing the game of Monopoly. If we all play the standard, original game and we all stick to the rules, and make no adjustments, or “house rules,” then the game will look the same whether we are playing it in L.A., N.Y., London, Africa or my kitchen table. That’s a principle of authority.
What happens when I am the visitor? Here are some things to keep before us, especially as we head into the busy vacation season this summer.
First, be friendly. Let people know who you are and where you are from. Walking in the front door, they may not know if you are traveling, or live two blocks away. A smile, a handshake and letting folks know that you worship back home will instantly make connections. It’s not a small world, but it is a large spiritual family that we are a part of. There always seems to be connections and that breaks the ice. Now, don’t be a bump on the log, who walks in with a chip on his shoulder and a frown on your face. You’re not getting your teeth pulled. You are there to worship God. Every once in a while, one hears, “I went there and they weren’t friendly.” Be careful with that. Coming in late and leaving early, and trying to avoid folks and it’s easy to get that impression anywhere. But if you come in on time and are friendly, you’ll do just fine.
Second, look around. Get ideas. See things that are impressive. Ask if you can take some literature. Bring back ideas to your preacher or elders. We learn from one another. Visiting other places is a great way to do that. We’ve had elders from different congregations visit to see what we are doing. We’ve had folks in charge of sound and recording from other places come and visit us and talk to our media team. Sometimes we can get stale at doing things the same way over and over. Seeing someone do it with a freshness to it can help us.
Third, be mindful that you are a visitor and most probably do not know who you are. With that in mind, limit your comments in a class. This is hard for some. When visiting, unless I have been there often, like where my son preaches, I rarely ever make a comment. I could. It’s their class and I am visiting. From the teachers perspective, he doesn’t know who I am. He may not have met me yet. He may not know if I am a Christian or not. So, if I continually have my hand up, as I have seen some visitors doing, he may hesitate calling on me. He may not know where I am coming from. Keep that in mind. It’s not my class. I happen to be visiting.
Fourth, don’t try to change the place. Just think about that for a moment. I’m writing this in my home office. It’s decorated with lots of sports items, I have a gold Beatles record on the wall, pictures of old car hood ornaments, an old antique phone, typewriter and lots of items that I like. Now, suppose you came to visit me, and immediately you started in by saying, “this would be better over there. I wouldn’t have that at all. That’s trashy. I don’t get the reason why you have that. Change this. Move the desk over this way. Get rid of those things.” It won’t take much of that and I’m not liking this conversation. My office is decorated the way I like it. Now, on the other hand, if I invited you over and asked your advice and wanted some help from you, that’s different. Why can’t we see that with worship as a visitor? Don’t try to change the place into what you are doing at home. Don’t complain, “Your services are just too long.” Or, “it would be better if you moved the Lord’s Supper to the end rather than the beginning.” Now, I have been asked multiple times for suggestions. When asked, I will point out a few things. But when not asked, I keep my mouth closed. It’s not my home congregation. It may be working well for them. Don’t ruin things for others, just because you don’t like it.
Fifth, be thankful that you are there. I saw a guy once, he was a visitor, he heard something in a lesson and he didn’t agree with it. He was chomping at the preacher and even being disgusted with the preacher’s comments, never once being thankful for the worship, the lesson or the class. Unless it’s a major blunder, I will give the guy a pass. I know what it’s like. I am a preacher. But some folks are ready to launch missiles if you failed to dot one “I”. They are quick to point out everything that is wrong. It was too hot in the auditorium. The babies were crying too loud. There was a piece of paper on the floor. There was a light bulb burned out. You’d think some visitors are working for the health department. They come in as inspectors. Critical. Quick to blame. Finding fault. And, if they can’t find fault, they leave unhappy. Rather than enjoying a new place to worship, they leave with a mental list of all the things that were wrong. Smug and satisfied that they will not be back, they forgot one thing, to WORSHIP GOD. The first disciples never met in church buildings like we do. For some, especially in the third century, they were meeting in catacombs. You want to find a list of things to complain about, try worshipping in a dark catacomb. It was not built to hold worship services. Brethren met there to avoid getting arrested.
I love to visit other places. It’s encouraging. Often, they sing songs that we don’t normally sing at home. I like listening to someone other than myself preach. I get ideas. I make new friends. I find myself encouraged, lifted up and helped.
Some congregations are more welcoming than others. Some have more curb appeal and are more eye catching than others. Don’t be comparing. Don’t be saying over and over, “back home, we do it this way.” “Back home, we have this.” “Back home…” Say that enough times and there might be a special collection to get you a bus ticket so you will go “back home.” It’s not back home. If you can’t handle that, then possibly you should just stay home.
It is a wonderful opportunity to be a visitor. The visitor and the welcoming church. When the two meet and both are trying their best, it’s a grand experience. God is praised and hearts are encouraged.
Think about these things the next time you travel.