“I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matt 25:35)
One summer, I was at wits end. The elders graciously granted me a sabbatical of several months. During the Sundays of those two months, my family continued to attend my church while I took Sunday morning road trips to different churches.
Several impressions remain from those visits. First, I remember how intimidating it was to go to a church where I did not know anyone. Second, I clearly remember how few people greeted me or took an interest in me. Of the eight churches I visited, exactly one person held a conversation with me. At church after church, I walked in alone, sat alone, worshipped alone and walked out alone without having one significant conversation.
But let me tell you about the exception. This dear women, about 20 years my senior, sang in the choir. When the choir was dismissed, she came down, walked all the way to the rear of the church and sat a row behind me. When the service was over, she introduced herself and engaged me in conversation. She asked significant and appropriate questions. I left that church feeling as if I had connected with someone. Looking back on that day, I believe this was a ministry she had appointed herself to. While singing in the choir, she must have been scanning for first-time visitors to welcome.
We may often wonder about how to find open doors for the gospel. But one obvious opportunity that the Lord gives to us is visitors to our own church. Most of these folks are filled with unease and fear. Have you ever walked into a party where you don’t know anyone? Scary. Have you even been at a meeting where you couldn’t leave without making a scene? Intimidating. A church service presents both these challenges to first-time visitors.
Greet one another (I Thess 5:26) is a command. This is one of the most basic ways we love each other. Scripture says Christians are to be hospitable (Rom 12:13). But the literal meaning of that word is a lover of strangers. To be hospitable really starts with welcoming strangers into our hearts and then into our homes.
Let’s engage in this ministry as a family. You will be glad you did.