Monday, June 30, 2008

Welcome

Yesterday our Gospel reading wrapped up our reading through Matthew 10. It presented us with quite the challenge to be welcoming. I have yet to come across a congregation that doesn't consider itself friendly. My experience has been that probably all of them are right, they are friendly. They like the people that are around them and their friends that gather there. The mistake, I think, many of them make is in thinking that they are welcoming. That is not all so much the case. Far too often the people are too busy being "friendly" to notice somebody different than they normally talk to and welcome them.

I spent a spent a summer in Portland, OR and I got to visit a lot of different congregations while I was there. Rarely, that summer, did I have anyone go out of their way to welcome me, who was obviously a stranger. I did get dirty looks for where I chose to sit. I did get scolded for bringing coffee (the nectar of life) into the church. I did have to hunt and search for ushers to get a program on several occasions.

Spending time with friends isn't bad. The challenge is, when do you spend time with them? Do you go to them first and hope the "strangers" will still be around when you're done with friends? Or do you go to the "strangers" first knowing your friends will always be there for you? It can make all of the difference in the world. You might just be welcoming Jesus, in fact you are.

One final note on this, now that I've already said too much already... I heard somebody once challenge people to be "butts in" people. The idea is that it is natural for us to gather in groups, it's human nature. When we gather in a circle and are looking at one another we become "butts out" people that discourages people from joining in with us. When we gather in a circle looking out for new people to welcome we become "butts in" people. Which one will you be?

1 comment:

david said...

Your observations are dead on. I served one particular congregation that truly believes they are friendly and welcoming. Too bad when they told me this, they completely ignored my family for the first six months. I got to where my family went back to our previous church on Sundays, and then someone had the nerve to ask, "where is your family?"


I like the "butts in" reference.