“I Was A Stranger…At The Assemblies”

Neal Pollard

Being a local preacher, I do not get to “fill the role” of unknown guest at a congregation very often.  Last night, I did.  I attended what appeared to be an average congregation, with a mix of ages and of apparent middle-class status.  The quality of the Bible class was very good, and there was considerable participation from the members.  I was a couple of minutes late, and I chose a random seat.  After the class and before a brief devotional, a middle-aged woman asked if I was visiting.  She was pleasant, and the conversation went until the devotional began.  After the last amen, the lady thanked me for coming.  I reached out my hand to greet a couple of others, and a young man near the rear of the building greeted me, asking if I was a visitor.  The man who taught the class, who appeared to be the local preacher, asked if I was a visitor.  I said yes, and he told me to come again.

By personality, I am considered an extrovert.  While the weariness of a long day of travel may have affected my outlook, I believe my assessment is not too inaccurate.  Despite the refreshing friendliness of a couple of members, the vast majority of those present passed by me.  They did not inquire about me, try to find out about me, and none tried to ascertain whether or not I was a member of the church.  Had I been of a mind, I could have easily slipped in and out without notice.

This is not an indictment of a single congregation in one area of the county.  In the last few years, the same thing has occurred in other states.  My perspective is not one of hypersensitivity, as my feelings were not at all hurt.  My concern is for legitimate “strangers” at our assemblies.  In most congregations, especially in urban areas, “drop ins” from our community are common, if not weekly, occurrences. Each one has an eternal soul for which Jesus died and which should intensely matter to each of us.  It concerns me that on the Great Day, before our Just Judge, our Lord will have taken note of our stewardship of these precious opportunities only to say, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in.”  May it never be!

3 thoughts on ““I Was A Stranger…At The Assemblies”

  1. That was a great article, dad! It’s a sad thought that someone could come in and leave completely unoticed. Thanks for the eye-opener!

  2. This is a much needed reminder. Like you, I am seldom an unknown guest in an assembly. One Wednesday night about a dozen years ago I visited a congregation. I arrived a few minutes late. Surprisingly, no one spoke to me. I did not rush out of the building after the service concluded. The members were busy talking to one another. It was almost as if I was invisible. I have often thought that I should have written or called the preacher, expressing brotherly concern.

  3. At the congregation I attend we often remind our members to greet our visitors, and we follow up with a postcard , a letter or even a phone call afterwards. I too have found it somewhat disconcerting when I have visited other congregations and have been virtually ignored, Thankfully that does not happen often. My wife, however, was quite bold once and introduced herself to members of a church that she visited while on vacation as they were exiting the assembly, but still she was not warmly received. So accustomed is she to greeting people that at another event that was not church related she did the same thing and Barbara Bush was in the audience!

    One of the things that sticks out in my mind that made me open my Bible when I was not converted is the fact that the people in a congregation that I visited over 33 years ago greeted me with open arms and made me feel wlesome. Before that the Bible that my younger brother had given me as a gift was collecting dust on top of a closet for about 7 years. That day I went home, dusted off the Bible and have been reading it since then.. In the words of a song, “They shall know we are Christians by our love.”

    Doctrine and love are both important, along with everything else: “But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance…” (2 Timothy 3:10)

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