Many church leaders plan the weekend with an eye toward those on the inside: the music we sing, the language we use, and the next steps we provide are often designed for those who are already part of the family. The problem is, we inadvertently overlook those who desperately want to fit in. We fail to give even small cues to help an outsider become an insider.
Our weekends often bring comfort to the comfortable, but they can heap discomfort on those who already feel out of place. As believers on the inside, we have a choice: we can continue to set up our sanctum of solitude, or we can throw open the doors, set aside our preferences, and welcome outsiders into our circle.
Planning the weekend through the lens of hospitality
In an earlier post, I said that hospitality is the new apologetic. In our increasingly-divided society, the kindness of hospitality sets us apart, begs a question, and demands an answer.
When we plan the weekend with an eye toward the outsider, we follow the model of Jesus as a “friend of sinners.” We want them to see the grace of God, feel the love of a family, and be welcomed in rather than elbowed out.
That means we follow the old adage and keep the main thing the main thing. Our main thing must always be the gospel. We dare not substitute any other thing in its place. The good news of Jesus will always draw others in. It will challenge us to put others first. And it will remind us that we were once on the outside, but God’s grace turns strangers and aliens into sons and daughters.
Only the gospel can sustain the weight of our guests’ expectations
When people visit our churches, they walk in with certain hopes, assumptions, and fears. They want a place to belong, a place to find help for their families, and a place to find stability for their lives.
We can point our guests to any number of programs, ministries, small groups, and next steps, but if we fail to point them to Jesus, we have utterly failed. We dare not connect them to the ministries of the church without first pointing them to the shepherd of the church.
Early next week, one of your weekend guests will tell the story of their visit to your church. Will it be the story you want them to tell?
In September and October I’ll be offering a series of free webinars to equip you and your team on guest services, volunteer culture, and connecting fringe attendees to the mission of your church. To find out more, click HERE.