Welcoming is an essential characteristic of a Jesus centered church because it is an essential characteristic of Jesus. Too many people slip in and out of churches without ever connecting with anyone, while it’s members comfortably stand by assuming someone else will step up. When we break away from our weekly routine and remove ourselves from the same people, the same seat, the same conversations and seek to genuinely welcome people, we reveal the heart of Jesus to others and become more like Him ourselves. Welcoming is crucial, not for numeric growth, but for our joy and God’s glory.
It’s important to remember that apart from Jesus we do not know what it is to welcome. Left to ourselves we are selfish and greedy and will step on anyone and everyone to elevate our own name. It is only by Jesus’ example and by His grace that we can love and welcome as He does. Here are four areas that we have the opportunity to welcome people and four ways that we can look to Jesus to see how He did it.
The first is welcoming as the Church gathered. When we meet corporately we welcome as Jesus welcomes us. All of us. Humanity. Jesus did not discriminate. His atonement was sufficient for all mankind. There was no sin to great for Him. He welcomed the rich and the poor, the sick and the healthy, the religious and the pagan. This is the way that we welcome on Sunday night. From the pulpit, through the music, in conversation, the message is “you are welcome here”. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, Jesus can handle it. The Gospel opens our eyes to the reality that we are all equally in need of grace. Our Savior has found us. What else could we do but welcome others in to hear of His goodness? If He can save me, He can save you, and if you, then another. In every way the Church gathered should proclaim the truth that God is able to save and there is none beyond His reach.
As the Church scatters through out the city we welcome as Jesus welcomes us individually. We move from a banner that says “all are welcome” to a relationship that says “youare welcome.” Through time and conversation and transparency we learn where people have come from, who they are, and how they struggle. The broad world saving grace of Jesus becomes an intimate personal reality. The language moves from every sin, every addiction, every past can be forgiven, to your sin, your addiction, your past can be forgiven. When we go through our day to day lives we establish relationships to reveal the wonderful truth that Jesus came not only out of the Father’s love for the world, but out of His great love for you.
As the Church both gathered and scattered we will encounter those who know Jesus and those who do not. Both need to be welcomed. When we welcome believers we welcome as Jesus does welcome us. The beauty of the Gospel is that it not only justifies us, but sanctifies us. It takes us deeper and deeper into relationship with Jesus. He not only welcomes us in, but He welcomes us back. When we wander, when we forget, He reaches out and pulls us back to Him. He never abandons us. This is how we are to welcome brothers and sisters in Christ. We don’t withdraw from them to find those that don’t know Jesus. We maintain our relationships and make ourselves available just as Jesus makes Himself available to us. We open our homes and our lives to get into deeper relationships with each other. And when we wander we pull each other back, when we forget we remind each other of the goodness of Jesus.
How do we welcome those that do not know Jesus? We welcome them as Jesus did welcome us. He pursued us, loved us when we were unlovable, He pardoned us and saved us. He came and got us. This is how we welcome those who do not know Jesus. We can have greeters set at the door, we can have a cup of coffee and a handshake ready for them, we can make our homes available. But we can’t just wait for them to come to us. We welcome them by going out to them. By showing them, not just through words, but through time and sacrifice, that they have value to God. We give up time, and resources, and energy to tell them what Christ has done for them. We need to have an environment in our homes and churches that makes people feel welcome, but we need to love them enough to be willing to leave those homes and churches to reach them. Welcoming is an essential characteristic of who we are, whether locally or globally, with friends or with strangers, in the church or at the pub, because it is an essential characteristic of who Jesus is.