“All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Corinthians 16:20).
The gatherings of the church are to be times filled with great joy and love. After all, we are family, having been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ and all indwelt by the Spirit of Jesus.
In ancient times the “holy kiss” was a common way for believers to greet one another as they gathered, probably men to men and women to women. It was the old-time equivalent of a hearty handshake or a friendly hug. It was a symbolic expression of love and unity within the Body of Christ.
As we come together as the people of God in our churches we should greet others as though they are beloved family at a family reunion. We must also keep in mind that in healthy churches there will usually be guests attending on any given weekend.
Thom Ranier, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, recently penned what he called “The Ten Commandments for Guest-Friendly Churches.” He reminds us that guests are often uncomfortable and somewhat nervous as they attend a church for the first time. Here are Ranier’s “Ten Commandments” for church members as they welcome guests:
- 1. Thou shalt pray for people in the services whom you don’t recognize. They are likely guests who feel uncomfortable and uncertain.
- 2. Thou shalt smile. Guests feel welcome when they see smiling people. (You can resume your somber expressions when you get home.)
- 3. Thou shalt not sit on the ends of the rows. Move to the middle so guests don’t have to walk over you. You’ll survive in your new precarious position.
- 4. Thou shalt not fill up the back rows first. Move to the front so guests don’t have to walk in front of everyone if they get there late.
- 5. Thou shalt have ushers to help seat the guests. Ushers should have clearly marked badges or shirts so that the guests know who can help them.
- 6. Thou shalt offer assistance to guests. If someone looks like they don’t know where to go, then they probably don’t know where to go. Get out of your comfort zone and ask them if you can help.
- 7. Thou shalt not gather too long in your holy huddles. Sure, it’s OK to talk to fellow members; but don’t stay there so long that you are not speaking to guests.
- 8. Thou shalt offer your seats to guests. That family of four can’t fit in the three vacant seats next to you. Give it a try. You might actually feel good about your efforts.
- 9. Thou shalt not save seats. I know you want to have room for all of your friends and family, but do you know how a guest feels when he or she sees the vacant seats next to you occupied by three hymnals, one Bible, two coats, and an umbrella? You might as well put a “Do Not Trespass” sign on the seats.
- 10.Thou shalt greet someone you don’t know. Yes, it’s risky. They may actually be members you don’t know. And you may get caught in a 45-second conversation. You’ll be OK; I promise.
Remember how it was the last time you attended a church for the first time. Put yourself in the shoes of the first time guests this weekend. I suggest that you not greet them with a holy kiss; you might be greeted in return with a holy punch. But a warm handshake and a kind word will do wonders to put others at ease as they gather with the people of God this coming weekend.