Encountering More Than God

By Joshua Earman

I experience joy when I come to New Life on Sundays. This stems not only from my encounter with Our Father, but also from my encounters with our church family. We focus, rightfully, on preparing to encounter God. But how much do we prepare to encounter others?

Each week there are endless opportunities to actively love those around us.

The New Testament teaches that the growth of the body of Christ happens when each part does its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). We aren’t merely a part of an organization called “New Life Presbyterian”. As servants of God’s people, we also eagerly meet the needs of others for the sake of love. Both before and after the service, we have time to put this into practice. How?

When I go to a movie with friends, we sit together. It would be strange to walk into the theater together and then sit by myself. As you come in, pray about where to sit with the intent of encouraging those near you. Ask others to sit with you. This “Pew Prayer” is an active way to encounter our church family as we shift from being the “helpee” to the “helper”, from being served to being a servant. How would this simple prayer alter your view of the worship service?

Visitors come to observe you. You think they are listening to the music and sermon, but most are also watching you. What are they learning about Christians from their encounter with you? Introducing ourselves and explaining what is going on helps them feel comfortable in this new place. Occasionally a visitor comes because he or she is in crisis and wonders if a church can help. Will we take the chance to find out?

Often after hearing the word of God, we talk about last night’s movie. Many of us are just uncomfortable starting up “spiritual” conversations. During the sermon, think of some comments or issues to raise with others. Instead of asking “What did you think of the sermon?”, make a specific comment such as, “The point about God’s provision is what I needed to hear today. What in the service resonated with you?” This may generate a fruitful conversation.

After the service, use your time to find out people’s concerns and pray quietly with them. Let us be known as a church who joyfully loves one another when we gather because of the great love we have encountered in Christ.