What do you say to someone who hasn’t come to church in a while?
“Nice to see you,” is one of the more traditional responses that is usually followed up with remarks about the person’s lack of church attendance, unless the phrase is spoken snarkily, which is almost all of the time.
I think the story of the Prodigal Son is important when assessing one’s in-church ‘hellos’ to those who haven’t been in church for a while. Ask yourself: Who would you rather be? The father who is excited that his son has returned home or the brother who isn’t thrilled that his brother is home?
If you choose the brother, then you’re the snarky one. You are the one who speaks with acid and anger on your tongue. “Oh, it’s great to see you! Your kids have grown since the last time you were here!”
If you choose the father, then you are what Your Lord wants – one who is happy that someone has come home. You’re the one who makes things comfortable for the returning friend. Smiles abound rather than snark. You will be the one who sends a card to the family saying how it was wonderful to be with them in worship. And you’ll tell them that you are praying for them.
The happy church follows the path laid out by the father. The broken church follows the path of the brother.