It was in many respects like a first date arranged by some internet dating site. Both individuals had filled out an extensive form about likes and dislikes, personality traits and what they hoped for in their match. Months passed and then, out of the blue, a name appeared via email. Immediately a Facebook search was launched. Shortly after this, the first round of communication began – including setting up a face-to-face meeting.
Watching from a distance, it was clear that both parties were nervous. From sheer appearance they looked very different; and in fact, reading both of their backgrounds, they were clearly not two peas in a pod. Yet, very quickly both became animated and started laughing. At that point, to anyone passing by it would seem as if they were old friends…which is very much the hope of these college freshmen roommates
Initial meetings can be awkward for even the most extroverted among us. Despite our technological abilities to “vet” folks before meeting, the whole story is seldom told. Even in church.
For years I have watched people walk into church for the first time. Many have thoroughly checked the place out online beforehand. However, there are always a few tenuous moments upon arrival. Likewise, I have observed everything from over-exuberant ushers to greeters who actually ignore the new people in their midst. It all makes me ponder how we express the hospitality of God. How do we not only welcome newcomers, but prepare for the step before inviting? And once the new person is in our midst, how do we help them not to feel overwhelmed on the one hand, but not feel ignored on the other?
I believe it all centers on our desire to truly express the hospitality
of God. Which leads to the question: what is the best way to do so? It all begins with prayerful intentionality. Invitation, welcome, worship, fellowship, follow up, discernment and incorporation are all opportunities for us to manifest the hospitality of God – and to engage in God’s mission!