I am always amazed by the amount of visitors that come to Friday Church! I always try to ask them, “What brings you to Highland Baptist on a Friday evening?” Their answers vary. Some come with recovery programs. Some have heard Joe Phelps on the radio or have read an op-ed piece. We even had a couple come to church for a date night! However, I feel that most visitors come looking for a connection and to fill a void in their life. Most state that they have left the church due to changes in their life’s circumstance or they were dissatisfied with their church and did not plan to go back.
One of my most memorable conversations was with a middle-aged gentleman this past fall. He was visiting for the second time. When I asked him what had brought him to Highland, he simply stated that he was invited. He began telling me that he had grown up in church. During his teens, he wore his hair long and cursed a great deal. The church folk and the preacher would look at him and make comments. He had numerous experiences in which the church made him feel that he was not good enough to be one of them. He felt inferior, like damaged goods. He eventually reached the conclusion that these people who talked about God loving everyone and claimed they loved everyone, were just pretending. They didn’t love him. They did not live by what they said or believed so why should he mess with them?
He stated that for a long time in his adult life, he rejected God. His life took him to places where people should not go. Through it all, he felt that there was something missing in his life. When he reached Wayside, he was at his lowest point. Then, one of his brothers at Wayside invited him to Highland.
He told me that when he walked through the door into the Sanctuary, he was greeted with warmth and enthusiasm. He stated that the way everyone treated him was so powerful. It was like water in the desert. No one cared whether he was damaged goods or not. He could not explain it. All he knew was that God’s love passed through those he met and that God loved him!