Christians are a funny bunch. We have our own subculture, complete with terminology and social habits.
Once we’ve been in the club long enough, we think all this stuff is normal, and we forget that our behavior might be scary to a new person — perhaps most of all, our über-friendliness.
Friendliness is scary? What?
This idea would have sounded quite strange to me even a few years ago. Maybe you can relate.
I’ve always gone to church. I’ve always been taught to be warm, friendly and inclusive. I can’t count how many thousands of services I’ve sat through where the preacher told us to turn and greet the people around us before he started his sermon.
In the Charismatic circles I’ve been part of, things get even more personal. When we have the opportunity to pray for people — often, after a Sunday morning service — the Holy Spirit has a wonderful way of depositing encouragement in hearts through our responses to his leading.
However, if we are not careful during tender moments, we can be guilty of being insensitive, presumptuous, and intrusive.
It wasn’t until I started working at a pregnancy center that I learned some specific ways to show respect and sensitivity to others. I’ve learned how important it is to let others find their own voice, especially in a time of crisis. I’ve learned how to ask and listen rather than instruct and advise.
I’ve learned how to ask permission before I hug or even touch someone.
Most Christians are sincere in their efforts to minister to others. It’s just that we can be so convinced about our insights from God that we fail to realize our methods in delivering his message might be frightening or distressing to someone unfamiliar with our ways.
So here are some tips on how to make new people at your church uncomfortable:
1. Be instantly intimate. Envelope them in a bear hug, slap them on the back, rub their shoulder or hand for long, awkward moments. Never mind that they may want to run out the door because you are a stranger touching them, and the past abuse is surfacing. The important thing is you are being friendly!
2. Be curious. Ask lots of personal questions. Act like it’s perfectly natural for people to tell total strangers the deepest secrets of their heart. After all, we belong to Jesus here, so that makes us automatically safe, right?
3. Be weird. If you think God is telling you something about the person you are ministering to, assume that you should share the whole insight with them, complete with plenty of Christianese jargon. Be sure to include the phrase, God told me. This will help you feel really good about how spiritual you are, and they will listen to you like you’re E.F. Hutton.
4. Talk more than you listen. You’re the one who has something to offer here. Make sure you use plenty of Scripture references and heavy-duty theological terms. It’s not important to find out their story. Just make sure they are impressed by your knowledge.
That should do it! With a little practice, you should be able to make the hardiest newcomer flee for their life.
If not, try one more thing: tell them you intend to share the deep secret they just revealed to you with your prayer group.
Boom. They’re outta here.
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