Last Sunday we gathered with our church family and friends for a meal together and we’ll do it again in two weeks. As is our custom, there was special recognition and honor given to our guests. We told everyone we wanted our guests served before the rest of us. I believe that’s the way it should be. I grew up in a home where my mother both taught and practiced that guests came first, then the rest.
Sometimes that doesn’t happen when we gather for worship. Sometimes our guests have to fend for themselves. Guests don’t know where the classes meet. Guests don’t know the people in the church and feel uncertain about their place. They need to be served first. They need for people to come up to them and be friendly. They need people to ask about them. Where they live, are they traveling or are they looking for a new church?
It is ALWAYS awkward to visit a new church. And people start evaluating the general character of the church the minute they drive up. They look at the building, the lawn, the flowerbeds. They look at other people. Do other people make eye contact or not? If they made eye contact did they then come over to talk or just look away and walk on?
Long before anyone ever says a word from the pulpit, visitors have already decided if they feel welcome and want to come back. People tend to stay when they feel wanted. They tend to leave when they don’t.
There are friends I want to see every time I come to church. I look forward to being able to catch up on the things that have happened since I saw them last. I think of them as my extended family. But at almost every service there will also be people that I do not know. They are guests in our church. My mother taught me that guests are to be taken care of first. What did your mother teach you? Did guests go last in your home? Did you just ignore them? I don’t think so.
Paul taught in 1 Tim. 3:2 and Titus 1:8 that elders must be hospitable. The Greek word literally means that “they love strangers.” Peter wrote that the same quality should be in all of us, 1 Pet. 4:9. All of us want to be SHOWN love. Who among us will show it to others? Every week we have our chance to serve the Lord in this way. Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:44-45, “Lord when did we not...? And the Lord said, “inasmuch as you did it not to the least of these, you did it not to me.”
- Tim Orbison