My ‘undercover Christian’ adventure

On the weekend Natalie and I attended the baptism of a child whose parents do not regularly attend church. And it was something of an adventure!

You see, attending a church service as part of a crowd of mainly non-churchgoers meant that we were sort of ‘undercover Christians’ for the day (although anyone seated near us during the hymns, the prayers or the creed might have had reason to suspect at least some familiarity with church things on our part).

And just like an episode of Undercover Boss, there’s both good and not so good to report.

First, the good stuff.

Several congregation members extended a friendly and amicable welcome to us, not just smiling but stopping to chat and see that we felt ‘at home’.

Better still, I can report that the service was unashamedly Christian, gospel-focused and delivering genuine spiritual reality without compromising on accessibility for guests—very 1 Corinthians 14.

On the not so good side, the really interesting thing was the assumption that we weren’t Christian that seemed to underpin the way congregation members related to us. The way this expressed itself was subtle. But we definitely noticed it, especially when it tilted towards an almost apologetic defensiveness or attempts at self-justification (e.g. about what happened in the service).

I’m sure I’ve made this mistake myself. And I suppose there are worse mistakes to make, such as assuming that everyone is Christian and automatically ‘gets’ what’s being said and done without any further ado. But avoiding this mistake shouldn’t leave us assuming that any strangers who walk through our doors are either uncomprehending or potentially hostile.

Worth pondering: what are your usual assumptions when talking to a newcomer at church?

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