By Jennifer Davis Rash
Executive Editor, The Alabama Baptist
The man carried himself with confidence and purpose. He walked into the church and up to the welcome desk without hesitation.
“I’d like to go to your singles Sunday School class,” he said.
“No problem,” one gentleman said and pointed the man my way. “She will help you find your class.”
As I wrapped up my conversation with a family of five new to our church and regrouped to help the gentleman at the desk, I noticed several people walk by and greet him, speak to him, pat him on the back, etc. Our church is a friendly church and the members are good about welcoming guests, but in this particular case no one spent more than a few seconds with the man before moving on.
When he turned to look at me, all I could see was pain in his eyes. He said all the right words and knew what to do in a church setting, but something wasn’t right. I purposefully didn’t take him to a class right away. I spent some time talking with him, got him a soda, asked questions and tried to get to know more about him. Within a few minutes, he was sharing his real story with me and he definitely needed to talk. He also needed a different class than the one he came in asking about.
The more I heard his story, the more I could narrow down which Life Group (or Sunday School) class would be best for him. I also knew exactly which leader would connect with him and personally located the class leader so that I could introduce them immediately.
The connection was made, phone numbers and email addresses were exchanged and the man knew he had a family of faith willing to walk with him on his journey.
The experience that Sunday shook me a bit. What if I had not slowed down long enough to really look into his eyes? What if I had not noticed the pain? What if I had not shown compassion and truly cared about him as a person?
Of course, the next person may have done all the right things and taken even better care of the situation, but it reminded me that we shouldn’t leave these opportunities for the next person. What if the next person isn’t paying attention?
God gave me the opportunity to encourage a fellow believer who was in a world of hurt that day. It meant I had to rearrange my schedule. It meant I didn’t finish a project for one of the ministers when I said I would. It meant I missed catching up with many of my friends. But it also meant receiving a tremendous blessing.
As I drove home from church, I thanked God for allowing me to participate in the experience. I also wondered how many other hurting people had walked up to the welcome desk and received a friendly greeting but nothing deeper. How many others had I not noticed?
What about in everyday life outside of church? How many people do we see every day and never slow down long enough to read their eyes, observe their body language or notice their words?
And if we are honest, how many times do we sense someone needs to talk or needs a friend, but we don’t want to invest the time, change our schedule or deal with it in general?
How many times have we been so focused on the latest office or family drama that we missed noticing the sadness in the eyes of the person listening to us?
As Christian believers and church families, what difference could we make if we all slowed down and served others through the gifts of awareness, listening and encouragement?