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Earl S. Johnson Jr.

Earl S. Johnson Jr.

Earl S. Johnson Jr. is the pastor of First Church, Johnstown, New York, and adjunct professor of religious studies at Siena College.

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How are visitors greeted in your congregation on Christmas Eve?


The answer to this question will vary in Presbyterian churches, and the way in which we respond reflects our most fundamental attitude toward outreach and evangelism. Almost every congregation desires church growth and sets it as a primary long-range goal, but sometimes our behavior prevents the very thing we say we seek.

I have a vivid memory from a Christmas Eve service when I was a boy in my home church. The pastor welcomed the congregation with words something like, "I want to wish many of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, a joyous Easter, a pleasant Fourth of July, and a Happy Thanksgiving because I know that I will not be seeing most of you for another year!" Maybe, in Daniel Powter's words, he "had a bad day." However, even as a child I knew this attitude was unfeeling and insensitive, and as a pastor I have never even thought, much less said, such a thing during any service I have led.