It wasn't. But not for lack of trying, and I believe that any negativity that came of it had absolutely nothing to do with the congregation.
First, the church I went to this week is Killeen First Church of the Nazarene. I had been there a few times before during our years since we moved here, and my interest is always piqued by the sermon titles that Pastor Rick Moore has prominently displayed on the outside marquee. It is a friendly, warm church with songs I can sing and messages that I can relate to. Thinking back, the reason I stopped going there is very similar to the reason that this week could have been so dismal.
My first visits at this church were warm and welcoming, and I had been greeted with hugs from at least two older congregants on my way in. A hug is a wonderful way to greet a willing new visitor, at least in my opinion and experience. After I had visited for a few weeks, though, I think I blended in and became less visible. Or something. This particular visit, I was greeted warmly by some and with glancing, cool smiles by others. I was not given an order of service, though I saw others had the little church bulletins.
I saw someone from work, as I walked into the foyer, and we chatted very briefly. She even came over to my seat a little later to talk and to explain that most Sundays she played the clarinet with the worship team. We had a nice visit, and I learned more about how this church loves its youth and keeps them busy. Then she moved on, and I wondered again why I always end up sitting totally alone at any church.
This is what could have made me feel so alone. That nasty, sad little voice inside.
"Other people got one."
"Doesn't anyone ever want to sit near me? Am I somehow giving off unfriendly vibes?"
This Sunday, though, I had a bit of an epiphany.
My (new) friend from work couldn't sit with me, even after the worship, because her son needed her to sit with him.
They most likely just ran out of the flyers.
It's not personal.
I became convinced, sitting there, that every time these little sad thoughts and feelings of ostracism come in-- it's not the church at all. In fact, sometimes it might even be that the church is too good, or too right for me, and Satan gets angry.
Okay, so I'm laughing at myself a little bit here. Why would Satan care about one visitor? I felt an element of truth to that thought, though, sitting there. So I kept it.
Yes, there are churches that are cold and unfriendly. I'm sure I have genuinely seen them, and I am equally certain that I'll see more of them as this "52" continues.
This time, though, I knew that the church I visited was normally very friendly. That very day, I'd I had a treasured pre-worship chat with a person I now count as a work friend. Anything else is either my own social awkwardness or dark spirits forcibly trying to make me avoid that congregation in whatever way they can.
Here is my thought. If, at some point in the future, I am blessed enough to find a church I really want to call "home," I would love to either work there or be a volunteer who helps with keeping our visitors. One might call it marketing, but I think it has more to do with making sure that first impressions are consistent and that a church welcome goes beyond having, as one church did, a welcome center that was unmanned and not very welcoming at all. It's something worth thinking about.
From Pastor Moore: Being a follower of Christ does not mean prosperity, health or lack of strife. BUT we can live a life of spiritual victory. 100% of the time. Imagine that! Bad stuff will still happen. We can rely on God's community, and share our load.
The sermon topic was "Typical Christian Assumptions?" and I found it interesting, engaging, and meaningful.
Mark 10:35-45 tells of two disciples who asked to be seated to Jesus' right and left sides, answering only to Him on his throne. They were under the mistaken belief that being a follower of God was easy, that His burden was light. They were wrong, and the sermon was about what other things we might assume to be true, such as that Christ might be there to do things for us (as in "Ask what you will in Christ's name and it will be done").
Overall, though I was left with a calm sense of peace and understanding. I wonder if it might be a bit presumptuous of me to think that Satan might be interested in me, or my little blog, or whether I alone attend church. I don't think that matters so much. Either way, my resolve is strengthened.