Here’s a guest post from someone that shares their experience interacting with a church during a special event, with their pastor and some of their members. I encourage you to read through the entire post and let me know what you think at the end.
Much to our delight, he came to greet us. He was so friendly that, for a moment, I thought maybe we should attend his church. He was so gregarious and charming. I realize that isn’t what one should look for, necessarily, and certainly not singularly, in a pastor of a church, but it certainly helps.
Just moments before, it had been insinuated that we hadn’t paid for our “will call” tickets and we had stood wondering where it was that we were supposed to go, standing in the entry way, as if invisible, while awaiting direction to proceed to this “dinner theatre” presentation of a high school play, sponsored by the church that this man pastored.
His personality, and efforts to come out of his comfort zone to personally welcome us, put my mind at ease. I figured everyone else was just having a bad day and inexperienced at putting on a dinner theatre production. In my heart, I applauded the church and this pastor for making efforts to even put on a show and add dinner to the production.
I was excited. I loved dinner theatre productions and while I reminded myself that this was their first attempt, I was anxious to start the event and experience the fun.
At his direction to find a place to sit, we walked forward. The feeling of being where we did not belong was not only present, but closing in like a room starting to become devoid of oxygen. I started relying on my own determination to follow through on a commitment to be there. If I had to rely on the level of feeling “welcome,” we would have been in a deficit and I would have forfeited the money that we paid for the tickets, without hesitation.
Even though we had paid for the dinner, it felt as if we were a nuisance. I thought, afterwards, that maybe it would have been better to choose not to eat. Possibly, in my humanitarian-thinking mind, the money for the tickets could have been used to feed the homeless, instead of leaving food on the plate because I was too uncomfortable to eat in that environment. I wasn’t sure which aspect of the behavior was worse, being ignored when you greeted people with a friendly, “Hello,” or feeling leered at and talked about. They both produce an “unwelcome” sort of feeling. I figured it must be because everyone else had already eaten and they viewed us as having come late. I couldn’t figure out how arriving on time was “late,” but possibly we missed a memo that only church people got. Ok, that would explain why I felt awkward and why everyone seemed to view us as intruders. Besides, the pastor was so friendly and welcoming, so everything must be “ok,” right?
Fortunately, soon after, the play began and I became immersed in the wonderful production. The kids really were very talented. Even after the play ended, I felt comfortable because I knew the kids and I interacted with them. I tried to help clean up, but that awkward “intruder alert” kept flashing. As long as I chatted with the high school kids, everything was peachy. When my loving husband offered to take me home, I gladly accepted. It seems that any guilt I felt at “not helping” was replaced by that urge to either run, or go up to someone and ask them why they were so mean. This wasn’t a charity. I was a “paying customer” and on top of that, offering to help!
Life went on, as usual, and I didn’t put a lot of excess thought into it. I figured it was “their church” and no matter how charming the pastor may be, it wasn’t worth my time to visit the church or participate in any more dinner theatre productions or events hosted by the church. To each his own, right?
A few months later, we were at another event and I passed by this pastor. As I saw him approaching, I thought to myself, “Hey, there is that friendly pastor. I should say, ‘Hi.’” So, that is exactly what I did. I said, “Hi” in the cheeriest manner. I am not one to hold grudges and was not about to fault him for how others may have behaved, or not behaved. His body language and gruff, under the breath “Hello” back caught me off-guard. This was not the same charming, kind pastor that I had met at the event hosted by his church!
Wild things went through my head. Did I have poo on my face and he was trying not to look? Ok, that is ridiculous, I know, but I couldn’t figure out why I was not worth the time of day. I reminded myself that possibly he was in a hurry, and having a bad day. I went on, walking toward the school.
After entering the school, I had similar reactions from his wife and from his family. The funny thing is that I only remember interacting with them two to three times and surely, eating some spaghetti at a dinner theatre hosted by their church should not be listed as “offensive” enough to warrant this rebuff! I tried not to think it, but the thought did, indeed, occur to me. Is it possible that the was kind to us at the other event because he wanted “points” for our attendance and money for the tickets? Was it possible that this pastor, who presumably preached “love,” was not only unloving, but unkind? How can you preach it an not live it?
Fortunately, the behavior is just “one of those things” and I am not negatively impacted. But, I can’t help but think of those people who may be negatively impacted, thinking that they have found a church that they can call, “home,” to find out that they are only treated kindly under certain circumstances. What sort of damage will that do to another poor soul. And, maybe there is a perfectly good explanation for all of the behavior and rebuff. I’ll allow for that, and even hope for that. But, I have a challenge for all religious organizations and humanitarian organizations and any organization that deals with human beings (or animals, for that matter):
Please do not open your doors to help the hurting if you are so busy with your agenda that you hurt the hurting, even if it is inadvertent. Please, if this is how you treat people, intentionally, or unintentionally, please find another line of work, where you do not have access to people. I wouldn’t want anyone else worrying that they may have poo on their face, too.
Deborah E is a Jazz Singer and a writer who enjoys finding the positive in life and focusing on living life with a positive persistence, as well as helping others. She has several blogs, including one on positive quotes. She also shares live streaming of her music at this “5 Hugs A Day” site, as well as her other sites. You can visit her on Facebook.
So, how does your church look to visitors?