In "Should people be checked out before accepting them in a congregation?", a person wrote about 'checking out' new people to the congregation before accepting them. While I understand the logic behind making sure they accept the true church and follow the Lord, I have experienced that type of probing and questioning that is being referenced, and it is extremely uncomfortable.
The questions I have received range from how many children I have, why don't I have more children, where do I work, what is my relationship with my husband, who are my parents, where do they live, etc. This type of questioning almost always comes from the women, although some men do it too. It is rare indeed that anyone asks me about my faith.
This is very upsetting to me. I think it should be my choice about what to volunteer regarding my personal life or my family. I don't believe an initial introduction should allow someone to obtain all the personal detail they can. When I have tactfully tried to ignore that type of question, the questioner tends to get more insistent. I have flatly told someone that what she wanted to know was none of her business, and she got offended at me! Don't get me wrong, I have nothing to hide in any facet of my life; I just don't see the point of sharing that much about myself.
Questions about my beliefs and practices would be understandable, and I have no problems answering those. I do not attend church to gain friends or have a social outlet. I prefer to worship quietly in my pew in full silence and submission. I do not ever wish to teach a class, although I can understand that the congregation benefits by knowing that they do not have a member spreading heretical beliefs. However, I cannot understand why church members, on such short acquaintance, feel they are entitled to personal details about someone they never saw before. Do you have any insights?
"Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. ... Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:10,15).
"Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart" (I Peter 1:22).
There is a reason why Christians refer to each other as brothers and sisters. You see it in the behavior of early Christians. "So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart" (Acts 2:46). The bond of Christianity means that we become a part of each other's lives.
When someone comes to join a congregation, they are family you haven't met before. Of course, there are things you are curious about. You want to know where they fit in the family tree. You want to know who you both commonly know. There is one member here who never ceases to amaze me. A name will come up and he'll say, "I know him!" And he does, even being able to name who they are related to.
When someone comes into the church, I want to know how I can help them. Let's take the case of an older woman coming by herself:
- Is she new to the area? She might need help finding things as she settles in. Does she already have a job or does she need help to find employment?
- Is she married? Why then is she alone? She might be here in advance of her husband and might need a hand. She might be a Christian and her husband isn't, which might be an opportunity to teach the gospel. If her husband is coming next week with the moving truck, I'll round up a bunch of young men to be there to help them unload the truck.
- Does she have children? Then the natural question is why are they not with her because most bring their children. If they are older children who are not Christians, again there is a possible need to help teach them the gospel. If they are young, perhaps I can introduce some of the "grandma"s in the congregation who love to help with little ones.
- Are there common interests? When someone comes because they are enrolling at the dental school in town, I make sure to introduce them to the older students in that same school. If a newly married woman comes, I make sure she is introduced to some of the other young brides as well as a few of the older women who can help if they need it.
You see these things as prying. I see them as people getting to know a stranger so she won't leave as a stranger. What happens on Sundays in the pew is just a fraction of what being a Christian is about. "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). May I suggest looking through a word study a young Christian woman did? See "Fellowship: A Word Study."