I recently read an interview with Andy Stanley, a minister in North Atlanta, Georgia, who preaches to about 5,000 people each Sunday. At one point the interviewer asked him, “Is your sermon the pivotal event in the service?”

Stanley’s response was very perceptive. He said, “I often tell our people, the service starts in the parking lot. You are the introduction.” He believes that if the congregation has not made a positive impression on the visitor before he stands up to speak, the visitor is probably not going to hear a thing the preacher says.

Stanley’s observation reminds us how important those minutes are between the time we park our cars and we pick up our songbooks. Though our minds may be consumed with the hassle of getting ready for church (this is multiplied by 10,000 if you have children), the way we meet and greet our visitors is actually part of the message (a big part) that they will hear that day. With this in mind, the following are a few ways we can work together to improve our sermon introduction:

► Starting in the parking lot, be on the lookout for unfamiliar faces.

► Take the initiative to speak to people you do not know and welcome them.

► If they have children, ask them if they can use some help in finding a Bible class.

► As you enter the building together, introduce your new friends to some other people yyou know.

I am convinced that it only takes one person to make the difference between, “this is the coldest, most unfriendly church I have ever visited,” and “this is the warmest, most caring place that I have ever walked into in my life.”

“Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.” (Proverbs 27:9)

– Glad Tidings –Good Things
_ Reprinted by request