You were a first time church visitor.
Do you remember your experience visiting your church for the very first time?
Take a moment and think back to those first moments. Â What was it like being a visitor to your church?
Do you remember
- the emotions you felt being in a new space for the first time
- surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of people you didn’t know
- your experience of welcome
- how easy it was to get to your seat?
- a particular person who made an impact on your decision to come back after your first visit?
You were the church visitor
Leviticus 19:33-34 commands Israel to welcome strangers because of their experience in Egypt.
‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.’
They were not to oppress the alien because they knew how it felt when they were in Egypt (Exodus 23:9)
You might be a long term member of your church.
At one point you were not.
You were a visitor for the first time.Â You had a spiritual need and somehow, you found your way to that church.
You were the “alien.”
Maybe you were full of emotions, such as a little anxiety, stress, perhaps a little nervousness at being the first time church visitor.
Maybe you had some excitement of being in a new place, the start of a new adventure in visiting a church for the first time.
Maybe you had no discomfort at all if you are used to being in brand new spaces with crowds of unknown people.
You can identify and empathize with those who are coming to your church.
But now you are a church member
You have integrated yourself into the community of faith, and other people are coming to your church for the first time.Â Now those visitors are the “alien.”
- How can youÂ treat visitors as one of your own?
- How can you “Love them as yourself, for you were aliens . . . ?”
Jesus welcomed people
Notice what Jesus did with visitors in Luke 9:11 (Feeding the Five Thousand)
The crowds . . . . followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.
In fact Jesus welcomed so many people into his presence, that he was accused of welcoming sinners (Luke 15:1-2)
Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Acts 28:30 points to Paul’s practice of welcoming people
For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.
McIntosh makes the point that several different Greek words used for “welcome.”
together, they suggest the meaning of gladly welcoming someone to one’s home as a guest . . . [Welcoming newcomers] is a theological demonstration of God’s grace. . . .when we welcome newcomers to church, we are demonstrating the gracious love and care of God (p. 12)
Let me ask you this?
- How does your church welcome visitors?
- How do you personally welcome visitors?
- Do you see your welcome as reflecting God’s grace?