by Dan Seale
I don’t want Redeemer to be a friendly church even though guests often say we are.
I want Redeemer to be more than a friendly church.
I want Redeemer to be a place where people find friendships.
I want us to be a church where people find friends that enrich their lives as we help each other follow Jesus.
More than that I want people to find family at Redeemer.
It is my prayer that Redeemer Church is a family of spiritual fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters that live together and love one another in such a way that we become more and more like Jesus in His character and His priorities.
I think that is happening. Not perfectly. Not to the same degree for everyone. But that is our desire.
The reason we strive for these types of relationships is because it reflects God’s design for the Church. Paul states that through faith in Jesus we are welcomed into God’s family. That is one way to summarize the Gospel (Ephesians 2 & Galatians 4). Just as Jesus welcomes us, the people of God are called to welcome strangers and outsiders into God’s family (Exodus 22, Leviticus 19).
Coming to faith in Christ means receiving the privilege of coming into the family of God and also gives us the responsibility of inviting and welcoming others into the family of God (Acts 2).
Welcoming others and being friendly isn’t just a nice thing to do it is an important way to live out the Gospel. That’s why I believe people sense warmth and friendliness when they worship with us. The warmth they experience isn’t because we have lots of naturally friendly people but people who are being shaped by the Gospel and long to welcome others as Jesus has welcomed them. The Gospel should move all of us to be a welcoming people.
We first experienced that type of welcome in August of 1990. Debbi and I visited Crossroads Community Church for the first time and were warmly welcomed by the greeter who introduced us to another couple. I can’t remember who greeted us that day but I am forever thankful for him because he connected us to Don and Chris Calamaro who have been close friends for 27 years. We were together twice this summer. Their friendship helped us connect to the church and ultimately to my mentor, Tim Witmer. That greeter changed our lives forever.
How do we welcome guests?
One way we live out the Gospel is how we welcome people on Sunday mornings. We need to have the mindset that we are family expecting guests.
How do you welcome family and guests to your home? For some of us hospitality is natural and second nature. For some of us this is awkward and challenging. Hospitality takes effort and thought as we seek to focus on others and make them feel at home.
Here are some ideas for hospitality and welcoming guests at Redeemer:
Look for people you do not know
Smile, say hello and introduce yourself
Anticipate needs they may have if they are first time guests
Invite them to sit with you in worship
Introduce them to other people
Invite them over for lunch after church
Invite them to your community group
Connect with them during the week—invite them to coffee, dinner, a movie, a museum etc.
But I don’t know what to say?
With two worship services its possible that someone has been coming for a while and you haven’t met them. I know you don’t want to embarrass them or yourselves so here are some suggestions or phrases to use.
“How long have you attended Redeemer?” (Not “is this your first time?”)
Use the term “guests” rather than “visitor” or “new person”
“We’re really glad you are here.”
“How did you get connected to Redeemer?”
“How did you find out about Redeemer?”
“I don’t think we’ve met. My name is _______.”
Our motivation is to love, help and show guests Jesus in our words and actions.
How exciting to think that a smile, a warm welcome, a meal, or an introduction could change someone’s life like that anonymous greater changed mine.
May God enable us to welcome and love one another as Jesus has loved and welcomed us.