Years ago, my husband and I had decided to go back to church after taking a 2 or 3 year sabbatical. Of course we didn’t want to go back to our original home church. Those people all thought we had moved or died or something. Why else would we be MIA for so long? So we started shopping for a new church. One where we could let people assume that we were new believers, or at least new to the area.
One church right down the road from us looked quaint and inviting, so we did a drive by to see what time their sign said church would start and one Sunday, we got up, dressed, caffeinated and headed out the door to church. We pulled into the parking lot and headed into the building, hoping we could slip unnoticed, into one of the pews in the back. No such luck. Although the building was a good size, the congregation was small. Microscopic, really. The pastor may have been having a family reunion, actually. And it was a very small family. Every eye in the place was on us and we were suddenly wishing we had scheduled a dentist appointment, instead of going to church. We had wanted a small-ish church, but were wanting a church that at least had a decent selection if they held an all-church potluck. We survived, of course, and we even filled out the little attendance sheet in our handout, so that whoever tracks these things would know that they had a huge uptick in attendance that day. We are thoughtful that way.
The next week, having blocked the memories of the awkward church experience out of my mind, I answered the ringing phone. It was a very nice woman from the micro-church asking if we would be willing to be greeters at church the next Sunday. I hurriedly explained that my family was all going on vacation to Iceland, (or did they say Illinois?) and I was going to have to stay and house sit their pet cactus, or some other nonsensical excuse that made it perfectly clear that we would not be attending church the next Sunday, so we could not be possibly be the greeters (of all 12 attenders).
Really? Is this how you make someone feel comfortable at a new church? Put them to work? I was just there for the music. Or to get out of the heat or something. I wasn’t really here to sign up for a job. Geeze. Hit me up my third visit. After I’ve had a chance to enjoy communion. At least feed a girl. These were seriously my thoughts, and I’m the joiner in the family, so this was definitely NOT the church for us.
It took us a few months to recover from that traumatic experience before we worked up the nerve to try again. This time, we went to the church that my husband had gone to as a child. Of course, they had a different pastor than he had had. Again, we did the drive-by for the time check and then Sunday morning, we rolled out of bed, had our coffee and a Valium (just kidding on the Valium, although I think we could have used one due to the PTS of the last church experience), and headed to worship. The parking lot was a little more full, so we felt relatively confident that we were not going to be asked to take up the collection plate that day. We snuck in and sat towards the back and tried to look invisible. Again, we filled out the little information sheet. This time, it was a test. If we got a phone call, this would definitely NOT be our church.
That week, every time the phone rang, I was half expecting it to be someone from the church asking if we could bring food or flowers for the next service, but by the time the week ended, the church had passed the test. They had not called. We were relieved and spent a lot of time joking about how crazy the first church was. We planned to take a second run at the second church, since they had passed our test, but it was a sunny day, or there was something good on TV or something and we just didn’t make the next Sunday’s church service.
About mid-week of that next week, I was home with the kids, minding my own business, when the doorbell rang. It was early-ish and I hadn’t showered (I was home with my kids for goodness sake, what was the point?), but I’m not expecting anyone, so I go answer the door. There is a normal looking guy standing there and with my middle kid on my hip, wearing my shorts, a stained tshirt and flip flops, my hair all a mess, I say, “Yes?” to this stranger.
He very politely sticks out his hand and says, “Hi. I’m Pastor (insert name here) from (insert name here) Church. I just wanted to stop by since you visited our church a couple of weeks ago and see if there were any questions I could answer for you about the church.”
My mind actually could not land on what he was actually telling me. WHO is this person? When my brains finally caught up with my ears, I was in shocked disbelief. Did the Pastor of a church that I had visited ONE time, actually just show up unannounced at my house? Did he expect me to invite him in? How do I know this is really the pastor? I certainly can’t be expected to recognize him after 45 minutes of church. You don’t just show up at someone’s house without a phone call. You’ve got to give them a chance to put their wine away!
Like a vampire, he waited for an invitation to come in, which he did NOT get, partially because I was dazed and in shock and partially because there were cheerios all over my couch and I clearly did not have time to vacuum them up to give him a place to sit. What was I supposed to do, brush them on the floor, or offer him a snack?
Needless to say, we did not go back to THAT church. We had wanted a place to hang out on the Sundays we decided not to sleep in, where some people knew our name. We didn’t want to get involved in volunteering or have the Pastor over for dinner.
After a few months went by and the trauma of being dropped in on had worn off, we decided to play it safe, and return to our original home church. Yes, we had been MIA for a while, but if anyone noticed, we could just claim we’d come back from the dead. Christians believe in that resurrection stuff, so it shouldn’t be that big of a problem. Our home church was really big, so there would be little chance of having someone call us to ask if we wanted to volunteer and the Pastor certainly wouldn’t have time to be driving around harassing all the new visitors. He has a lot of people to pray for. He’ll be busy.
So, now it’s years later, and after beginning to write this post, early Sunday morning, before church, I decide to share this story with my two girls while we are driving to church. We are all laughing at the absurdity of it all and having a good time. Then we sit down in church and our Pastor is preaching about how God doesn’t like a lukewarm believer. Kind of like how I feel about coffee. Be hot. Be cold. But don’t be lukewarm. It’s all going fine until he throws up Revelation 3:20 on the overhead screen. We start giggling, and then the tears start, and then we are out of control, finding it difficult to quit laughing.
The timeliness of this sermon is remarkable… and suddenly, I’m left wondering if my Pastor has been peeking through my windows, spying on me. Wait. Am I going to have to go find a new church??