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Welcoming is a biblical mandate

Welcoming is a biblical mandate

Welcoming is a biblical mandate

30 January 2019

“Welcoming is about the Gospel. It is about imitating God. But welcoming is also about common sense. Therefore, let’s preach and teach from the Bible about welcoming, but let’s also equip our churches to relax and welcome well.” Melissa Brown

By Scott Simpson

Welcoming newcomers to church is not complex, yet it’s rarely done well. Many churches – possibly most – have some sort of structure around the way they welcome people.

And that’s a good thing. But have you ever stopped to think that, instead of being a process or system, welcoming is perhaps a mindset?

Melissa Brown, in an article posted on The Gospel Coalition website, makes this point. She contends that we are a family (I’m sure we’ve all heard language of church/corps family used many, many times) – a big and diverse family, but a family nonetheless.

She goes on to say that families, even if they are comprised of a bunch of dysfunctional misfits (sinners), usually tend to love, include and have an affection for each other. A caring family is usually one that is comfortable, natural, and genuine with the other members. So, she suggests, it’s just possible that’s what people are hoping to encounter, hoping to get a sense of, when they walk into a church.

And yet how many of us can truly say we make a point of including and showing love for newcomers to our corps? How many of us go out of our way to ensure first-timers feel comfortable in the new, foreign environment they’ve stepped into; to take the initiative and talk to them? Or are we too ready to succumb to the temptation to retreat to the comfort of our familiar friendship groups, preferring – and let’s be honest – to effectively turn our backs on visitors?

The contradiction revealed in this exclusivity is that as followers of Christ we’re called to share the Gospel with our neighbours. Consequently, we throw open the doors of our buildings on Sunday morning, but then too often when visitors come, we are less than welcoming. Yes, the factors that contribute to this are many and varied, but ultimately, when you think about it, it’s quite strange behaviour!

The Bible, of course, is very clear on the need to make people feel welcome. Romans 15:7 tells us to “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Later, in 1 John 4:11, we are given the instruction, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Ultimately, and as Melissa concludes in her article, “Welcoming is about the Gospel. It is about imitating God. But welcoming is also about common sense. Therefore, let’s preach and teach from the Bible about welcoming, but let’s also equip our churches to relax and welcome well.”

Scott Simpson is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief.

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