Christian hospitality is the theme for this coming Sunday’s scripture and sermon. Among the many invitations of the early church to extend hospitality, I love the translation of 3 John 1:5 from a contemporary paraphrase of the New Testament called The Message: “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.”
We make faith visible—by saying “Welcome!” to those who walk in the door, by shaking hands with a visitor, by introducing ourselves to someone we do not know, and by inviting a friend to come visit our church or consider becoming a member of our congregation. By extending basic hospitality, we make faith visible. I love that!
According to all kinds of research data, the #1 reason people visit a new church is because someone invites them, and the #1 reason people join church is because of a sense of welcome. BMPC has long sought to be a warm and welcoming congregation with our Greeters on Sunday morning, our Coffee in the Court and Lemonade on the Lawn in the summer months, with our classes open to all comers, our Welcome Center in the Narthex and our membership staff's good work in keeping up with visitors and inviting them to New Member Orientations. But this is never the calling of just a few. According to the Bible, all believers are expected to reach out and welcome others into the community of faith. This is not a matter of church growth so much as it is a matter of heeding the call of Jesus Christ.
So, in your comings and goings this summer, if you visit other communities of faith, I invite you to pay attention to how they welcome visitors, asking yourself, what can we learn from them? And when you are in town and coming to BMPC, think about how you can help us be even more welcoming to those who walk through our doors—both members and visitors. Welcome. It means “come and be well.” It makes faith visible.