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Welcoming Guests

Welcome

There has been much discussion and disagreement about welcoming those outside the church into “our” services. The “seeker” service was especially attacked and now many seem to be on the “consumer” bandwagon. While there can certainly be a lot of disagreement about how all of these things should look, it seems there ought to be more common ground based on the church’s purpose rather than focusing on debating the minor details. Here are a few things to ponder as you decide whom you will welcome as guests and how you will welcome them.

  1. All must be welcomed. We need genuine and authentic churches that realize that all of us are broken and desperately need to be fixed. Adrian Rodgers said, “We are not a showcase for sinners but rather a hospital for sinners.” If not careful, even if unintentional, we can give the air of the Pharisee in Luke 18, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people…” Then he begins listing all of “their” sins. Several churches advertise that they are a church for people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups! Shouldn’t we all?                                                               One of our church plants states it this way in their core values, “Everybody belongs—people of every color, shape, personality, and story. We believe the church ought to be a home for people of every age, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. We ought to be able to befriend and do life with people who are unique and different than we are.” If our doors are not open for all to attend then we must ask ourselves why our doors are open at all? Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.”
  2. Guests should be honored as special. The members and the regulars should treat them as the special guests that they are. If they want our seat, they can have it. If they want our parking space, they are welcome to it. If they want on the end of the row, more power to them. We want to greet them with more than a smile and a handshake. We think more highly of them than we think of ourselves as the scripture teaches. We want them to know that they loved and we are going to role out the red carpet treatment for them.                                                  We know that in God’s word we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. We also are told that we are to recognize and consider others as more important than ourselves. If we are not careful we can begin to feel entitled because of how long we have been a member and believe that gives us certain membership rights. Listen to what Paul says in Rom. 9:3, “For I could wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.” Certainly we can give up a few of our fringe benefits for our guests.
  3. Let them know that Jesus loves them and so do you! People are longing to know that they are loved and cared for by others. They seem to know that they are not living their lives in a way acceptable to God without us even telling them. Many times I have been told, “You don’t want me coming there, the roof will cave in!” It didn’t! “Your church doesn’t want somebody like me coming there!” Yes, we do because all of us are broken and all of us need God. Another core value of the church plant mentioned above is, “We will do whatever it takes, short of sin, to bring more people to Jesus.”                                                                                                                                                                                     People are looking for others who genuinely care for them regardless of whether they are in agreement and for those who will love them even when they challenge what we believe and stand for. Regardless of how they dress or look we want to build a bridge to them so that they might realize how much God really does love them. Someone has said, “If you are going to be a bridge, you have to be willing to get walked on!” We need to help others not expecting anything in return. We welcome our guests desiring to help them any way we can so they might know that they are loved for who they are!
  4. Build a culture of hospitality! Build and train everyone to be on the outlook for guests and to serve them any way they can. Offer to sit with them if they are by themselves. Be ready to show them where they need to go and help them get acquainted when you get them there. Open the door, share a smile, give them your seat, or whatever other way you need to in order to show them how thankful you are that they decided to attend. Don’t worry about whether they came for the right reason or not because they probably didn’t. Remember, many of us attended initially for the wrong reasons.

People will engage churches for many reasons but they usually stay for one reason; relational connections with Christ and His people. A good friend of mine has said many times, “They may come because of the excitement but they will stay because they are loved.” Once again, if we are not careful, we can seem to only be interested in them for what we can get from them and what they can do for us by boosting our attendance and helping our offerings. Instead, let’s show them what Jesus can do for them and how we can serve them.

Healthy churches welcome all of their guests!