It happened during a Geoscience Research Institute tour for church leaders. A small church in a crossroads town in Utah arranged for our group to use a public school auditorium for Sabbath services because their tiny building could not accommodate such a large group.
When I arrived I noticed a young couple sitting alone on the far side of the nearly empty auditorium. Although a stranger myself, I felt impressed to walk over and get acquainted. Imagine my surprise to learn that they were Mormons who had come in response to a newspaper advertisement. They were graduates of the Voice of Prophecy Bible course, but this was the first time they had ever attended an Adventist service.
When time came for the Sabbath school program to begin, no pianist was present. I found out that the young lady could and would play for Sabbath school, and she did a beautiful job. After the service I introduced them to the group and expressed my appreciation to them. A church member who had attempted to contact them as soon as they had finished the VOP course, came over, introduced himself, and made arrangements to begin Bible studies.
When a loving, caring attitude is shown toward strangers, God's Spirit moves in and things happen.
A study of growing congregations reveals that first impressions play a crucial role in helping people decide to join a church. If the church is service oriented and members reach out in a sincere, loving way to greet strangers, invite them home, and make them comfortable, it makes an indelible impression. Personal warmth brings people back.
The February 2, 1987, Time magazine ran a cover story titled "Pul-eeze! Will Somebody Help Me?" The article related story after story about the poor service customers get from manufacturers and retailers. Good service, if the article is to be believed, is a rare commodity in America.
But it is not impossible to find. The final two pages of the article told of establishments "Where the Customer Is Still King." Stories of a department store chain, a supermarket chain, a maid service, an insurance company, and a sporting goods store revealed why these particular businesses were growing at a phenomenal rate.
Apply the principles of their growth to our own church growth program. The department store, which earns double the national average per square foot of store, has a strict training program for its sales help. They are encouraged to do almost anything within reason to satisfy customers. Management motivates employees not only by giving them financial security, but "by congratulating them and encouraging them."
What are we doing to train and encourage our frontline troops--our greeters--in reaching out in a loving and win some way to receive visitors and members as they enter our churches? Even if the church has few or no visitors, our own members are ever in need of a warm Christian welcome.
The sporting goods store gives employees at least 40 hours of training before they deal with their first customer. How interesting that God took Moses and trained him in the University of the Desert for 40 years before He permitted him to lead His sheep out of bondage.
The owner of the small chain of supermarkets spends little money on advertising. "We spend the advertising money on service," he says.
How much do we spend on literature and evangelistic advertising to let the world know who we are and what our mission is? Will it do any good if we are not truly servant (service) oriented? Could it be that our churches would be bulging with new converts if we practiced some of the simple but rewarding principles that are used in the business world.
Caring leads to friendliness--friendliness leads to friendships--friendships lead to witnessing--witnessing leads to decisions--decisions lead to baptisms--and baptisms lead to church growth. It's that simple!
In addition to all of this, if we are tenderhearted, kind, and courteous, we may be assured that the Holy Spirit will add the impact of a supernatural element to persuade people that our movement and message are vitally important. --J. Robert Spangler.