Several years ago I was traveling for work. I had been working in this town back to back for a few weeks when I remembered that one of my friends said he would often visit different churches on Wednesday nights when he traveled. I had heard a pastor on the radio and decided to visit his church that Wednesday. I pulled into the parking lot and parked in the visitor space. For some reason, I was a bit nervous, but I got out of the car and started following where people were headed. I chickened out at the doors. I stood there for about ten minutes watching people walk past, but none greeted me. After no one else was coming, I slipped into the empty lobby and looked into the sanctuary. Everyone was seated at round tables of eight. As I debated whether to go in, more people opened the doors and went in without acknowledging me. After a few minutes, I got back in my car and went to my hotel.
If you know me, this doesn’t sound like me at all. I’ve never met a stranger, but that night I felt invisible and unwelcome. For 15-20 minutes people walked past me, saw me and ignored me. It was clear to my mind that they weren’t ready to receive me or any other visitors. It bothers me when people aren’t acknowledged or welcome at a church. If there is anywhere in the world where anyone should feel comfortable, it’s at church. Anyone who attends church is a representative of God and who He is. When people feel invisible to us, they feel invisible to God. When they feel unwelcomed by us, they feel unwelcomed by God. How many people walk in and out of our church each week feeling unwelcomed, unloved and invisible? It’s not just the usher’s and greeter’s responsibility. It’s all of ours.
Psalm 100:5 in The Passion Translation says, “For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you!” If God is ready to receive us, we should be ready to receive others. There are people who come to church with the fear that if they go inside, the walls are going to cave in because of the life they live. The truth is, the Church was built to rescue them. It’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, and each week, we have the opportunity to show that kindness to people who attend our churches. It may not feel comfortable to you to show that kindness, or to show them we’re ready to receive them, but as people who bear His name, it’s each of our responsibility to do it. Do something different this Sunday. Look for someone who feels out of place and nervous, say hello and welcome them in. Your kindness could make an eternal difference. You are God’s welcome committee.