Thursday, July 7, 2011

Radical Hospitality

Acts 10:28
He (Peter) said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with Gentiles or visit them. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean."

Last Sunday, our pastors initiated a five-week sermon cycle based on the book, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, by Robert Schnase. The first topic was entitled "Radical Hospitality". Pastor Wallace shared with us what a church practicing this radical hospitality should look like, feel like, and act like when visitors come to call. As you peruse the recommendations below, I hope you will reflect upon how your own house of worship currently practices hospitality and how you can be more effective in inviting and welcoming newcomers into your congregation.

  • Is there a greeter's table at the main doors, clearly marked "Welcome, Visitors", and manned by a smiling, friendly, outgoing church member?
  • Are you being purposely aware of the people who regularly attend your church service so you can spot a new face immediately?
  • If you have a time for "Meet and Greet" or, in some congregations, "Passing the Lord's Peace", don't just exchange greetings with your friends; make an effort to shake hands with that new family and introduce yourself. Let them know you are glad they are here.
  • If a visitor asks directions to a Sunday school class or the parish hall, don't tell him where to go - escort him there; get to know him better along the way.
  • Don't allow anyone, visitor or long-time member, to sit by himself or herself. Get up out of that pew your family has occupied for the past 30 years and go sit next to that person! You may very well be the one who absolutely makes that person's day.
  • And, if you arrive at church to find new faces sitting in your hallowed pew, meet them, greet them, and sit somewhere else. Is it really going to hurt?
  • Are there visitors' information cards in every pew at your church?
  • Is there a spoken welcome to visitors from the pulpit each Sunday?
  • Are there volunteers who collect these cards after services and either visit or call these newcomers (per their requests on the cards) to thank them for visiting and to invite them to come again?
In today's scripture, Peter realizes that this new church, unlike the traditional synagogue, is not an exclusive club. The salvation of Jesus is available to Jew and Gentile, free and slave, male and female (Galatians 3:28). It is not our job to judge who walks through the doors of our church; it is, rather, an opportunity to welcome them with open arms, rejoicing in the growth of God's Kingdom

"Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come. We are the Body of Christ." ~ Casting Crowns

Readings
Psalms 18:1-20 or 18:21-50
1 Samuel 16:14-17:11
Acts 10:17-33
Luke 24:36-53

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