In the first church I served in, the pastor every week went to the back of the sanctuary to shake people’s hands. And many people in the congregation would kindly line up and wait their for their opportunity to shake his hand and saw a few words. Eventually that pastor retired and I was asked to take his place as the Senior Pastor. And so when the service ended I also went to the back of the room in order to shake people’s hands. However, overtime I began to notice a few things:
- I was not able to have meaningful conversations with people.
- It was hard to have deep conversations with people when there was a line of people waiting to shake my hand just so they could leave.
- I was not able to spend time in prayer with people. Again, there was a line of people waiting to leave. Now sure I could have prayed with people but there seemed to be a “rushed” mentality that did not allow for more time.
- Most of the conversations were brief and superficial. Most people who would shake my hand would simply say something like, “have a good week”, “nice sermon”, “thank you”, or of course there were the few who would say something very encouraging like, “you mostly kept my attention today.”
So those are a few of the things I began to notice as I stood in the back of the sanctuary. So one Sunday I thought I would try something new. I told the congregation at the end of the service that I would be remaining up front and if anyone would like to talk or pray I would be available. Now two crazy things happened next.
First, people were still able to leave the building even if they did not shake my hand. It was a miracle.
Secondly, I began to have real conversations with people. I talked with people about the sermon, about problems at work or at home. I had opportunities to sit and pray with people. I’ve even been able to grab a few other people so we could pray for healing. Over time I began to notice something else also. I noticed that some of those who used to immediately leave the sanctuary through a side door began to stick around and ask for prayer. In addition, no longer did I feel rushed but I felt free to really talk and love on people. And from what I can tell, others felt more free to talk about things that were really concerning them.
Now there are still many pastors who do stand in the back shaking hands and I think that is wonderful. It’s just not for me.