The Gospel Coalition just published a very interesting article, one which seemed to resonate with at least one friend. The author writes:
Do you make visitors feel conspicuous in the worship service? Stop it. Seriously. Please stop. Some visitors don’t care and will actually appreciate the attention. But many of them will not. This will be a net loss for you.
Plenty of times I have been the First-Time Visitor in a church.
Now, I have never minded
- being identified as a visitor
- raising my hand
- standing up
- wearing a special tag
- putting on a purple beret
- being sent through the gauntlet of handshaking
- being asked to dance a jig, etc.
And here in Costa Rica, people don’t seem to be too put out by being welcomed publically.
Many people do report (I say “report”, because it seems to me that they are reporting, not “complaining”) that those things make them uncomfortable. And I have no reason to believe they are kidding.
So a proper Christian response, an application of Agape 101, perhaps should not be along the lines of, “Hey, it doesn’t bother me, what’s wrong with these people?” nor “What, does being politically-correct mean we can’t even identify visitors now!?”
The Law of Love tells me to treat my neighbor as myself. In this case, in order to put no unnecessary cause of stumbling:
- I take seriously what others tell me is a burden
- even if I myself feel comfortable with that thing
- and to seek another way to make people feel welcomed but not put on the spot.
One other observation: This is one reason why the various city churches of the Church of England are seeing a great uptick in attendance in midweek evening services: “many people are drawn by the formality and relative anonymity of a larger place of worship.”  People can slide into the side door and hear the gospel without making a prior commitment to the congregation. It’s an introvert’s dream.