By Jason Hilburn
One Lord’s day my family and I were out of town on vacation. We
were in an unfamiliar area, but a few days earlier I had called and
spoken to the preacher of a local congregation there. Based on my
conversation with him, we had decided we would worship with them that
During our visit with this congregation, we noticed that the
preacher was very friendly to us, but most of the members either simply
stared at us or acted as if we were not there. I discovered that if
there were going to be any communication between me and the members
there, I would have to initiate the conversation by introducing myself
to them. To be honest, it was an uncomfortable situation, and I felt
like I was “forcing” them to speak to me!
We decided that we would look for somewhere else to worship that
evening, so we visited another congregation who were supposed to be
meeting for worship at 6:00PM. We arrived about fifteen minutes early to
find several members singing in the auditorium. We thought that we may
have arrived at the wrong time, but we went in and sat down anyway.
Apparently some of the members had met early to sing for a while before
everyone assembled for evening worship. They stopped singing a few
minutes before 6:00, and many of them came to where we were sitting and
greeted us. Then others came in and worship began. Afterwards we had
more members come to us and welcome us. We actually stayed for quite a
while after worship, talking to them.
There is no question that there was a great difference between
these two congregations. While the first congregation gave the
impression that they did not care much about visitors, the second
congregation made it very clear that they cared and were interested in
Although both congregations were about the same size, there were
several children at the first congregation and very few or no children
at the second congregation. Even so, my daughter remarked that she
enjoyed being with the second congregation more than the first. I had
not asked, but I suppose she felt so strongly about it that she
volunteered that information. My son agreed with her. Normally my
children would prefer to visit places where other children their age are
present, but this was an exception.
Dear reader, if you had a choice, assuming that both congregations
were doctrinally sound, with which congregation would you worship? It is
easy to answer such a question, but perhaps these are more difficult
questions to answer: How do we treat visitors? Are we like those in the
first congregation, or the second? Do we believe that it is “the
preacher’s job” to greet visitors and be friendly to others? Do we get
stuck in little cliques, forgetting or neglecting to reach out to others
who are present? How would we want to be treated if we visited another
congregation? Do we practice the golden rule towards our visitors?
(Matthew 7:12). Do we show our visitors that we love and care about all
people, not just our close friends and family members? Do we show
impartiality regarding whom we treat with loving-kindness?
Notice a warning James gave about how we might treat visitors:
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect...
...of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold
ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile
raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and
say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand
thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in
yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
...If ye fulfill the royal law according
to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well.
But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of
the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and
yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:1-4, 8-10).
James said some might treat a wealthy visitor better than they
would a poor visitor. Hopefully we would not be guilty of such
discrimination, whether it is because of a visitor’s financial
situation, skin color, or other superficial distinctions. However,
notice how the brethren in James’ example treated the wealthy visitor by
giving him special attention and a warm welcome. Is it not implied that
whether the visitor had been wealthy or poor, they should have eagerly
greeted the visitor and treated him in a warm, loving way? The lesson
for us is that no matter who visits the assembly of the saints, let us
make them feel special, giving them a warm greeting filled with love! To
refuse to do so is to refuse to “fulfill the royal law” in loving our
neighbors as ourselves. Again, we must consider how we would want to be
treated (Matthew 7:12).
Although we understand that our main purpose for gathering is to
worship God (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20; 16:2), the Bible also says
that there are other purposes accomplished when we gather, such as
edifying one another, teaching one another, admonishing one another,
exhorting one another, and comforting one another (1 Corinthians 14:3;
Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11). We are
also commanded to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good
works,” but how could we do such things if we never spoke to one
another? (Hebrews 10:24-25). Should we not also “consider” our visitors
and “provoke” them “unto love and to good works”? How can we do such if
we do not even speak to them?
Whether a congregation is warm or cold is determined by the choice
each individual makes regarding whether or not to reach out to visitors.
Perhaps the first congregation assumed that since they had a friendly
preacher, that was enough to make visitors feel welcome. However, the
truth is that if a congregation is warm, it is because the congregation
as a whole has purposed in their hearts to make visitors feel welcome.
If a congregation is cold, it is because the members have not made such a
As an individual member of a congregation, how have you determined
to treat visitors? Will you ignore them, or will you implore them to
return? Will you look for visitors at the next assembly so you can
approach them and greet them? May we all give our visitors a warm
welcome, thus fulfilling “the royal law,” loving our neighbors as
- Via the weekly bulletin of the Coldwater Church of Christ in
Coldwater, MS. Clifton Angel preaches for the congregation and he may be
contacted through that congregation's website: