It is happening. Thousands are marching. They are headed toward the US Border. People want to get into our country. Can you blame them? We have problems for sure, but I still believe we are blessed beyond measure, and who wouldn’t want some of this. I have read much about this caravan, and yet I am not sure how much to believe. I also understand the government is sending in the National Guard to patrol our borders. And politicians, news stations, and more are getting all riled up. Should we let them in? Should we turn them away? What should be our response?
Yesterday, I interviewed for a second job, and I deeply appreciate the climate they try to develop for their guests. They want people to come in, hang out, bring friends, and make it welcoming and comfortable. And in the years that I have been to their establishments, I have always felt that way. In my circle of influence – the church world – I can say most churches also strive to be friendly and welcoming. Unfortunately some of the churches I go to have not always been so inviting. And since the church rarely has thousands of non-attenders marching to our doors, we should be doing everything we can to be welcoming. For two years, during this wonderful time of transition I find myself, I have gone to many different churches and have had a wide variety of responses. Most are welcoming and cordial, but a few experiences could easily turn away guests.
For the first time in fifty years, I had someone say I was in their seat – and Lisa and I should move. It was rather humorous and I got it. But there were many occasions that weren’t. (Not going to list them, this is not about whining). Thom Rainer had a blog about ten things that turn away guests – and then another one about ten more reasons – and so on. Some items were ‘stand up and greet times’ (the #1 item, go figure), ‘unclean/unsafe children’s area’, ‘poor signage’, ‘bad/boring service’, and yep, ‘telling them you’re in their seat.’ If you see these, you need to get all Barney Fife on ‘em and “Nip it, Nip it in the bud!”
But let’s make this positive. Let me share and adapt a bit from what Leonard Sweet said in “The Gospel According to Starbucks.” (disclaimer – the Greatness of the Gospel is better than any business paradigm, but this is not about the Gospel but about how we as a church can be welcoming and inviting to those to whom we have a responsibility to share the Gospel in the most clear and inviting way possible without compromise.)
Get EPIC – Experience, from parking lot to exit and everything in between, let others experience the love, kindness, and grace of God from His followers.
Get EPIC – Participation, get people involved in a way that connects and shows how we love God in heart, soul, mind, and strength. Invite all to get immersed in the greatness of God’s gospel.
Get EPIC – Image Rich. Using the arts, illustrations, music, stained glass, anything to help the message of the Gospel get across. As a kid, I remember the flannel graphs, the Bible pictures, the music, and not so much the sermons (sorry dad). And I am sure Calvin is the same (I had to throw this in so he would read the whole blog).
Get EPIC – Connecting. Isn’t the Gospel about reconnecting the broken relationship with God through the act of love seen at Calvary? Isn’t fellowship about connecting? If there is anything I miss since I left Virginia, it is the community, the connection with my family and friends.
It’s happening. People are coming. They may not be marching, but people will enter the circle of influence of our church. They are seeking something. And we who know and have experienced the greatness of God’s grace – may we be prepared, may we create an environment where every person can have an epic experience of that grace. Are you turning them away (even unintentionally)?
OR … will you be ready to welcome them with love and open arms? Well, what about it?
post script – Rainer’s article