A young girl stood alone, watching the other children play. She leaned against the window, trying to be unnoticed but watching intently while the rest of the kids laughed and held hands and talked excitedly. She shifted her weight back and forth. Her body language clearly said she wanted to be included in the group. She wanted to be right in the middle of all the other kids but she didn't know how. She was afraid. She was alone. She was on the outside looking in. All she really needed to change all of this would be for just one young boy or girl to come over where she was, and say, "come on in!"
Most of us have experienced the fear and awkwardness of being in unfamiliar surroundings and not knowing where to go or what to do. We have been to places where we were alone while everyone else seemed to be with other people enjoying themselves. Do you remember how uncomfortable it is to be in church or around a group of people who are all enjoying themselves, who are obviously friends, but you are not one of them?
While sitting with our friends, it's not uncommon for church members to look over and see a person or a family that they don't know and say, "Who is that?" "I don't think I've seen them before, have you?" But do nothing.
I ate with a church earlier this year. It was a "fellowship" dinner for their gospel meeting. As the speaker, I was invited to be first to eat and sit. A man came to sit with me. He asked, "I was told that most visiting preachers usually have to sit alone at church dinners, is that true?" "It is," I told him. He was one of the elders. Interestingly, all of the elders came and sat with me. First time in 40 years of preaching!
It just takes one. Barnabas brought Saul into the church at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-7). Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (Jn. 1:40-41). Jesus said, "I was a stranger and you took me in," (Mat. 25:35).
At most services we have visitors. They may be travelling or just moved near us and know little about God, or maybe looking to find a group of Christians to work with or... They have come to our "home." They are testing our manners. They are testing our hospitality and shifting their weight and wondering - waiting - hoping for someone. Be looking out for those who are looking in.
- Tim Orbison