An organisation called Ship of Fools has volunteers who come into Churches anywhere in the world as any visitor would.
They join in wholeheartedly with the singing and worship. They listen thoughtfully to the sermon. They attempt to mingle with people during the after-service. And then they go away and write a report on the whole experience. You can read their observations the next day on shipoffools.com
What would we read if they visited Glen Osmond Baptist Church this week?
The heart of the gospel is an UNCONDITIONAL WELCOME into God’s family. It is a welcome that comes on the basis of JESUS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. It is the central, unequivocal message of the Bible!
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
“Welcome” is littered throughout biblical history and story:
- To Nicodemus, man of incomparable theological intellect, Jesus invites him born again in God’s family.
- To a despised tax collector. Jesus invites himself for lunch so he can invite Zaccheus into the Kingdom.
- Jesus invites street people to a dinner they can’t afford and can’t believe.
- There are 100 sheep and one goes missing. 99 are still there but the shepherd goes looking and welcomes that one, rebellious sheep home!
- The Prodigal son should be called “the welcoming Father”. It’s a story about the relentless, unconditional and unrelenting love of father rather than about a petulant boy who like every other boy thought that he knew better than his old man!
The fundamental need of every human being is to find a place where we feel welcome. Where we belong. Where we are not outsider, or intruder.
Ever since God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden we have craved for a community that we can call home.
The Story of David and Mephibosheth
David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”
2 Samuel 9:1
“kindness” = chesed. The word means “loving-kindness” or grace: love undeserved, unearned, unrepayable.
Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?”
“At your service,” he replied.
The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?”
Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.”
2 Samuel 9:2-3
Reading between the lines: “Well there is someone, but he won’t fit in to the palace crowd!” He isn’t one of the beautiful people
“Where is he?” the king asked.
2 Samuel 9:4
David doesn’t ask “how bad is he?” Or “how did it happen?” He asks “where is he?” He doesn’t find out if this man deserves kindness, or will require extra kindness.
Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.”
2 Samuel 9:5
Lo = no. Debar = pasture. The son of Jonathan is living in the most God forsaken part of the land… the place of poverty: the ancient world’s version of the slums.
So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor.
David said, “Mephibosheth!”
“At your service,” he replied.
2 Samuel 9:6
Mephibosheth replies “at your service” what he really means is “I’ll do whatever you want, just don’t kill me!”
Mephibosheth is thinking DEATH, while David is thinking LIFE. That is the heart of what we are about at GO Baptist.
Sociologists tell us people have all sorts of fears about coming into places like Church. Akin to fear of death. They don’t know what they might be asked to do. They don’t know if they will be singled out. They don’t want to look silly. They don’t know whether they’re supposed to stand or sit. They don’t know songs.
All the while we are excited to see a visitor. Our first task is the bring life to replace the fear of death!
“Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.”
2 Samuel 9:7-8
God did not heal Mephibosheth. Every time he walked through the palace there would be this clonk, clonk, clonk – it would be a reminder of grace, grace, grace! You are back home! You know longer live in Lo Debar but Debar!!
We want every person to walk through our doors to know the same gracious welcome!
Here are some places we can start:
- Every church member is a welcomer.
- Smile when you meet new person. Even if your terrified.
- Look people in the eye. This is personal. Not a task.
- Learn people’s names and remember them.
- Ask questions. You’re there to welcome them not sell your Church to them.
- Listening to them. Don’t look like you have other things to do or say.
- Greet children at their level.
- Let children be children.
- Invite visitors to join you at something, anything! Give them an invitation into your life or the life of the Church
- Help visitors find seating that suits their family’s needs.
- Be a tour guide. Help them to navigate this new place or new experience.
- Invite people to fill in visitors’ card for further contact.
- Make contact during the week.
- Pray for them.
- Be yourself!
The last thing we need is well trained, well-rehearsed welcomers! Instead we all need to learn how to model the love and welcome of Jesus.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another
We pray that this to be the experience of every visitor who walks through our doors!