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Editor’s journey

The wrong church

SPRINGFIELD, MO. — Accurate driving instructions are critical — especially when you’re scheduled to speak at an unfamiliar church on Sunday morning and you’re running late.

Unfortunately the directions in my hand advised me to turn right when I should have turned left. I pulled into the parking lot of the large church at the end of the road — assuming I was in the right place. I rushed inside without reading the church sign.

“Sir, I’m the guest speaker this morning,” I said to an usher. “Could you direct me to the pastor’s office?”

“Well, the pastor’s not in his office at the moment,” he replied.

“Then, if it’s OK, I’ll just wait for him in front.”

“Fine,” he said, “I’ll try to get word to him that you’ve arrived.”

The sanctuary filled quickly and the pastors filed onto the platform. The congregation broke into a medley of choruses and hymns. From the front pew, I made eye contact with the pastor. But he simply smiled back without inviting me to join him on the platform.

Something isn’t right, I said to myself. Maybe my assistant gave me the wrong date. They’re definitely not expecting a guest speaker today.

Then I nearly gasped with horror as I read the name of the church stamped on the hymnal: I was in the wrong church.

Already late for the other service, I couldn’t wait for a congregational prayer to slip out. I grabbed my Bible and marched to the foyer with my head down.

The usher intercepted me at the door.

“Sir,” I explained, “you’re not going to believe this — I’m speaking at the Assemblies of God church this morning.”

He chuckled, saying, “Well, to be honest, we were wondering who you were.”

I’ll never forget that awkward feeling of being in a place I didn’t belong. It occurred to me that some visitors experience similar feelings when they enter a church for the first time. They may not feel welcome at first or feel like they fit. But a friendly handshake and a smile from someone like you can go a long way toward making them feel at home.

Each Sunday make it a practice to introduce yourself to visitors and let them know they’re in the right place.

Hal Donaldson

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