Be Welcoming 5

Romans 12:13

This past spring I was impressed with a fellow pastor who asked me for a ride after a meeting. I had to take him to the home of one of his church members so he could retrieve his car. Apparently, the church member needed a car for work and the pastor loaned him his own car – for a few months.

I was impressed with the sense of giving and the willingness to sacrifice in a concrete way for someone in need. The pastor inconvenienced himself for an extended period so someone else could have things a bit easier.

Like the “Love Chapter” most people are familiar with from 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about how to express love in his letter to the church in Rome. He speaks of love being sincere (verse 9) and how we should be devoted to devoted to one another (verse 10). What other attributes of love should we show?

At first glance this verse may seem to hold two instructions. We should share with those in need AND we should be hospitable. But in fact I believe these are two facets of the same idea.

If we will truly love another person we will be willing to share what we have with those who have not. This is one way to live out what it means to be a Christian. We supply what the other person lacks.

We should also practice hospitality. We should be welcoming to the stranger, kind and friendly to the visitor, encouraging to those new in the faith. Not only is hospitality a way to live out the love of God, it is part of sharing with those in need.

If we encounter someone new to our church or new to belief in Jesus, then we must share with them. Part of that sharing is hospitality. They need to find comfort and acceptance. We are able to provide that.

The practice of hospitality is a sharing of what we have, who we are, and what we know with those who do not have that familiarity and comfort in worship. Hospitality, welcoming the stranger, is an expression of love that fills a need in the other person.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you share of yourself in hospitality?

Be Welcoming 4

Titus 1:7-8

Although a pastor I am still a human being and am often tempted to behave just as most others might behave. If I am in a hurry I get frustrated with those who are in my way and become an obstacle. If I get cut off in traffic I am tempted to respond in anger and call out a few inappropriate words.

But I am fortunate enough to have a sticker in the rear window of my car that reminds everyone that I am a member of the clergy. As I drive I can see the small sticker proclaiming “clergy” in my mirror, and it reminds me that I must behave in a disciplined and holy way.

This letter to Titus provides guidance for church leaders. What attributes should an overseer NOT have? What are the requirements of an overseer?

From the very beginning of the church the faithful have been concerned about presenting a right and appropriate behavior to those who are new to the faith. This behavior is not a fa├žade or false front, concealing the true actions of a person. Rather, these attributes should be a true part of who that person is. Those in the faith are warned not to be dishonest, prone to drunkenness or quick-tempered.

Instead the faithful followers of Jesus should genuinely be those who love good. Believers should be holy in their actions and attitude, and part of that holiness is to be hospitable to the outsider.

Some will say that these restrictions and guides are for officers in the church – the pastor, the board of deacons, the elders, or the lay leaders. But in fact these requirements apply to us all.

We are all leaders in the church. We are all overseers in our own congregations. We are each responsible for living an honest and upright life, loving what is good, being self-controlled, holy and disciplined. And we should all be hospitable.

It is up to each of us as members of Christ’s body – the church – to be hospitable and welcoming to those who will come to visit our places of worship. We must be welcoming and warm, encouraging to those who are new to the faith.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can remind you to be hospitable?

Be Welcoming 3

1 Peter 4:10-11

When our children got involved in some of the plays put on at school my wife and I, both veterans of the theater, told them the old adage – “There are no small parts, only small actors.” With only a single line of dialogue or serving as part of the crew, hidden from view, involvement in the play at first seemed somewhat less than exciting. But we emphasized that it took all the different parts and services in a play to make the whole effort a success.

The same is true in our work for God. What does Peter remind us of? What are his comments about serving?

It is very easy to fall into the misconception that only those who preach or work as foreign missionaries are really serving God. Too many believe the only way to reach the unsaved is to present a God-inspired sermon. Too many believe that the only way to help the needy is to live in a grass hut in the jungle ministering to the poor.

This can foster a defeatist attitude and a lackluster approach to serving God. We recognize that we do not possess these gifts and decide not to do anything at all. But we all have a part to play in serving God.

The work of God’s kingdom involves many different gifts and skills. An incredible variety of talents and interests can be employed in serving both God and man. Peter urges us to use our gifts, our God-given abilities and talents, to serve other people.

Peter also reminds us that as we employ our abilities we need to remember who it is that has given us these abilities and for whom we are working. We need to do whatever we can for the benefit of the kingdom of God and do it with zeal and joy, focusing on glorifying God in what we do.

One simple way to serve the Lord is to make those new to the faith and new to the church feel welcome. We may need to set our own desires and comforts aside for the benefit of others. Rather than judging those who enter our place of worship we should do all we can to provide them with loving guidance, forgiveness and grace, and a sincere welcoming heart.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What are you talented at doing? How can this be used to welcome others and help them?

Be Welcoming 2

John 14:2-3

Our friends had a guest bedroom as part of the floor plans for their new home, and over time they painted and decorated the room, filled it with comfortable furniture and even put in a television set. When we celebrated with them that the room was completed and looked so nice they told us that they had us in mind as they worked on the room.

What a comfort and compliment it was to know that our friends worked so hard just for our comfort. What a sense of welcome we felt when we learned their labors were meant for our benefit.

This passage from John is often read during funeral services to provide a sense of comfort to those who grieve. What does Jesus assure his followers about heaven – his Father’s house? What is Jesus going to do?

Part of our faith is the hope and promise of everlasting life with God. These words in John remind us that Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for all of those whom he loves. He has readied the reward for us, making things just right for our comfort and pleasure.

And with that preparatory work come the logic and promise of what is to come. If Jesus has told us about this place then surely it does exist. If Jesus has prepared this place then he will be returning so we might be gathered up to be in that eternal relationship with God. Jesus desires that we will be with him.

We can take comfort in knowing that our joy and eternal happiness has been considered by our Lord. We can also use this as an example of how we are to behave.

God desires that no one be left out of His eternal glory. God desires to be in a relationship with all people, that all people will choose to accept Jesus as Savior and enter into that love that God has for them. And one avenue for that relationship is the church.

We, as the church of Jesus, must be at work preparing a place for others. We must get ready to welcome those who have not yet come to Christ. Like Jesus we should have a place of warm and comfortable welcome, so that where we are others may be also.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Is there something you can do to make certain your place of worship is prepared to welcome a visitor?

Be Welcoming 1

Luke 5:17-20

I have to admit that when we know certain people are coming to our house we will put some things away where no one can see them. We might close the door to the master bedroom so no one can see our personal items or have access to some private documents. We may hide that special dessert we don’t want to share.

We try to be welcoming to visitors, but even our best efforts do not involve complete hospitality and openness. But Jesus has shown how to be very welcoming.

This story from Luke may be very familiar to many. Who is with Jesus? What special ability does he have at this time? Who “drops by?” How does Jesus respond?

This is a fairly well-known story from the Bible. Some men have a friend who is paralyzed – unable to walk and get around. He is so disabled that he must be carried from place to place by the friends.

Apparently, word has gotten out about Jesus and this group of men decides to bring the paralyzed man to be healed, but the crowd at Jesus’ home (the same story in Mark 2:1 puts it at his house) was so thick they couldn’t get inside. Desperate to have their friend healed they get on the roof of the house and dig a hole in it so they can lower the paralyzed man to Jesus.

We might expect Jesus to react as we would – “What are you doing to my roof!?” And perhaps we might expect Jesus to refuse to heal the paralyzed man because of what his friends did. After all some important folks were present and this intrusion may have been an embarrassment.
But instead Jesus sees the power of the faith the friends had. Because of that he was merciful and healed the man. The intrusion was forgiven and the men were welcomed.

Now the question is, how do we feel about those who visit us in our church? Certainly any visitors who may stop by your place of worship don’t dig a hole in the roof to enter. And yet we may treat them as unwelcome intruders, an inconvenience to our weekly ritual, or an invasion of our private time with God.

Can we be like Jesus and recognize the act of faith that it took for these persons to come in to the church? Can we be forgiving of any tiny error they might make? Can we welcome them in love?

DAILY CHALLENGE: Find a place near an entrance to your place of worship this coming weekend. Smile and welcome all who enter BEFORE you find your regular seat.