Covenant has been blessed with an excellent group of Sunday morning greeters. They faithfully stand by the front door ready to welcome all who enter, focusing especially on those who are new to our congregation. Armed with a heart for people, a warm smile, and a half-dozen loaves of the world’s finest welcome bread, they stand ready to extend the love of Christ in a tangible way.
But we must view them as our first line of greeting defense, not our last. Their service should serve as an example to us all, setting a tone of hospitality that wonderfully permeates every corner of the church on every Sunday morning. When a new person (who is often far more nervous than they let on) is greeted not just by the “official” greeter at the door, but by five or six others within the congregation, it sends a powerful message. It communicates that we not only have greeters, but that we are greeters through the love of the One who received us when we were still strangers to God. Jesus Christ is the ultimate Worship Greeter, and He has commissioned us to welcome others in His Name.
How can we go about this blessed work? First, we need to prayerfully prepare ahead of time and come to church with a commitment to look for and greet those people we do not yet know. Introduce yourself, and ask if they are new. Take an interest in who they are and where they come from. Offer to be of help in finding their way around the building or tell them more about the church and its mission. Take time to seek them during those crucial moments right before and right after the worship service. Your old-time Covenant buddies will likely stick around a few minutes to catch up. By and large, new visitors will not.
If you’re afraid you’ll discover that the “new” person you’ve greeted has actually been at Covenant for 15+ years and you just didn’t know it, don’t worry about it. Better a moment of passing embarrassment than a missed opportunity to reach a person who may never darken the door of a church again before the judgment day.
If you’re a shy person who doesn’t like doing this sort of thing, let me gently encourage you to remember the words of David from 2 Samuel 24:24, “I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God… offerings that cost me nothing.” The very fact that this form of Christian obedience is especially hard for you makes it all the more fragrant an offering to the Lord. God’s commands regarding hospitality (found in passages such as Romans 12:13 and Peter 4:9) are for all of His redeemed people, not just those who find them fairly easy to fulfill.
If you are an outgoing person, my challenge to you is even greater. You’ve been blessed with a gift that is less common than you might think. You should not only welcome new folks, but seek to introduce them to others, look out for them on future occasions, and even consider inviting them to join you for lunch after the service. As Luke 12:48 says, “From the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Don’t bury your gift. Use it for God’s glory!
Finally, a great way to grow in this regard is to intentionally place yourself in a setting where you know no one and have absolutely no clue what you’re doing. Nothing is as humbling as being the “new guy.” Nothing gives you a heart to greet more than when someone greets you when you really need it. Nothing makes you more sensitive to the needs of the stranger than to be a stranger yourself. That’s one of the reasons our Lord Jesus is such a perfect Savior: He made Himself the ultimate stranger so that we who were far away might be drawn into the family of God.
So let’s greet beyond the front door. You never know when such a simple act may yield an eternal result.