For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. John 13:15
Did you ever go to a congregation other than your own? I have, regularly. In the last five years, I have had the opportunity of speaking at hundreds of congregations. People have always been kind and welcoming to me. That has not always been the case for my wife, Pam. Often, she comes in a different door, and at a different time than I do. As her face has not been put up on any posters, she is pretty anonymous to the people in that church.
She tells me it takes about five minutes before she knows if a congregation is friendly or not.
Her comment reminds me of two conversations I had this past week. One was with a pastor who spoke of how a family in his congregation was staying away from worship. He explained how the bank had recently foreclosed on their home, and they were too embarrassed to go to church. The Elder told of how a mother with three young children was no longer worshipping at his church because three members of the fellowship had politely told her she should have “better behaved children.” She is now taking those children to another Lutheran church – a church that went out of its way to welcome her and her little ones.
Brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Most congregations have people who are experiencing “embarrassing” problems. Past experience says Satan loves to use problems like hard economic circumstances and comments made about “difficult children” to move people away from the fellowship of believers at the very time when those folks need their Savior and the support of their congregation the most.
In truth, your pastor may preach a powerful sermon from the pulpit, but very few messages will have as great an impact as the sermon that parishioners preach when they’re sitting in their pews. A whispered offer to help a harried mother will pay greater dividends than a withering look. A sincere handshake and the promise, “I’m praying for you”, can work miracles in helping to relieve a stressed-out worshipper’s anxiety.
That is, I believe, what the Lord was trying to teach His disciples at the Last Supper. It is what He wanted His people to understand when He said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” Granted, none of us can die to save someone else as the Savior has done for us. On the other hand, we are able to reflect the Savior’s love and peace to those who need to hear someone say, “Here, at this church, you are loved and wanted.”
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, as You have loved me and set an example of service, may I love others in word and deed. In Your Name. Amen.
P.S. Years ago, I developed a little pamphlet for congregations to give worshipping parents. If anyone would like a copy, write to me at: Pastor Ken Klaus – Children’s pamphlet – c/o Lutheran Hour Ministries, 660 Mason Ridge Center Drive, St. Louis, MO 63141.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries