One of the challenges that face large churches on a weekly basis is providing a welcoming atmosphere to guests. In a church like ours, where 2,000 or so people worship on a Sunday morning, it can be easy for a newcomer to be lost in the shuffle. One of our goals as a church is for guests to feel warmly welcomed from the moment they pull into the parking lot until the moment they drive away.
Perhaps a verse from Scripture would connect this practice theologically and put an exclamation point on the value:
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7, ESV)
Do you remember who you were when Christ welcomed you into his family? Were you rebellious? Callous? Lacking in conviction? Reliant on self-righteousness? Lost in sin with the sense you were a “good person”? Confused? We were certainly all strangers to his grace. Yet, Jesus gladly drew you in by the power of the gospel, through the agent of repentance and faith.
The word behind “welcome” in Romans 15:7 (other versions may say receive or accept) carries the connotation of Christ reaching out, extending his arm, and fully accepting you. And, that welcome we received in Christ is to be replicated as we interact in the church. When we see a guest or newcomer, we should:
- Meet: Step toward them with a handshake and a smile. Certainly this comes naturally to some, but is a step out of the comfort zone to others.
- Greet: Learn their name and story. High-five their children. Find out what brought them to Ingleside that day. Learn where they need to go and walk them there, or connect them with the welcome team or a staff member.
- Repeat: Make a habit of regularly building relationships with new people and helping them connect to the life of the body.
Did you catch the last phrase of Romans 15:7? A warm welcome, that reflects the welcome extended from Christ to us, brings great glory to God!
On a regular basis, I hear that one of the defining characteristics of Ingleside is a welcoming environment. I’m so thankful for teams of leaders that provide initial handshakes to guests of our church. People on the parking team, welcome team, hospitality team and others across our ministry do an outstanding job. In fact, we can always use more volunteers in those areas. However, it takes more than these key teams to provide a welcoming atmosphere. It requires an entire church committed to the principle.
In light of the gospel and for God’s glory, let’s be the welcoming church that God intends us to be.
In the Spirit,