Do you remember your first day at a new church? What did you feel like? What did you notice? For many, those experiences evoke feelings of nervousness and fear. It is scary to be new, whether it is new to a church, a group, or a business. You are entering into someone else’s world. They already have a way of doing things, an idea of what normal is there, and some traditions that everyone there already knows. Yet for many of us we can point to places where we felt welcome and part of the community from the moment we entered it, because of their hospitality. There are those who can make you feel welcome and a part of their group in a few minutes just by their actions and words.
Yet as we enter into a group, as we begin to get comfortable, and learn the culture, we forget that feeling. We quickly forget about the impact that a greeter made in connecting us to a person our age, we forget the loaf of lemon bread to say thanks for coming, and all the other things that made our experience a good one. We forget what it is that lead us to come back, and why we felt we belonged.
In Hebrews 13:1-2 Paul talks about hospitality to strangers saying, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:1-2, TNIV)
Jesus also taught about hospitality in Matthew 25 saying, “Then those ‘sheep’ (those who Jesus invites to enter into heaven) are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’ “(Matthew 25:37-40, The Message)
As we plan to celebrate the 5grow celebration at Trinity, there will be a number of people in our building and at events who don’t normally come to Trinity. As we kick off our 5grow celebration weekend there will be a number of people who are unfamiliar with the current culture of Trinity. This week tickets went on sale for the Rush of Fools concert we are hosting (5grow.weebly.com). As we prepare for the concert the challenge to each of us is, “Who will you invite?” We are hosting this concert as an outreach event, a place that you could invite friends who might not come to church, but would consider coming to a concert. But that night 500+ people will gather at Trinity, and we pray that a number of those people do not come to this church on a regular basis. Vacation Bible School welcomes a number of kids from our local community each summer who do not attend our church.
As we prepare for a summer filled with wonderful events to reach our community, are we ready? Are you ready to be the person who welcomes them, shows them around, and makes them feel like they belong? Jesus tells us that we serve him when we reach out to the person who is overlooked and forgotten. We have an opportunity make a number of people feel at home and welcome as they come to our church each week. As you think back to how you were welcomed and invited into Trinity, remember that you have an opportunity to reach out and welcome someone new. You can be the one welcoming newcomers, as someone welcomed you; you can help to break the ice as someone did to help you feel like you belonged. You never know who God will bring through our doors.