by Randy Sims, Executive Pastor
How long did it take you to be “in” at Midland Bible Church? To feel connected to MBC? To know you were home? Maybe a short time or maybe a while or maybe not yet. Whatever our answer, we have the opportunity to make it immediate for others. Imagine the most welcoming place you’ve ever been. Perhaps you are thinking of a resort hotel, cruise ship, upscale restaurant, or Disney park. A place that knew your name, your preferences, your reason for coming. A place that WOWed you from the moment you drove through the gate or walked through the door. Now envision MBC delivering such a welcome to our guests, our sometimers, and our church family every Sunday morning. This is the church home we all desire and this is the church home God desires for us.
To accomplish this for others we must first commit to practicing three attitudes that result in three actions that result in a strategy we call “aggressive hospitality.”
We love because he first loved us.
The guests are nervous, even scared, when they step out of their car and begin the walk of uncertainty toward the church doors. But so are we, in a way, as we catch sight of a new face heading our direction. With this stalemate of insecurity someone has to make the first move. This is our home so we act like it. We initiate conversation. We move toward them. We lean in to them with interest. We break the silence. WE INITIATE. It is our tendency to bunch up with others we know and leave the guests to find their “place” in the church. How long would a restaurant survive if the wait staff grouped in the corners of the dining area never engaging the customer? Not long indeed. So, to break the impasse, we have Connectors in the parking lot opening car doors, greeting families, high fiving students and children as they make their way to the Plaza, asking questions that communicate interest – “how is your weekend going?”, “is that a new car?”, “how did you hear about MBC?” and commenting on the beauty of their family, how nice they look, or the West Texas sunrise. Arriving through the door with their new best friend the guests are met with more Connectors (new new best friend) dispersed, making eye contact, smiling, moving toward them, ready to answer questions or find the answer, escorting them to children’s check-in, student ministry, or coffee, taking time to visit and continue aggressive hospitality. This happens so well and so fast, the guest is no longer aware of their initial concerns about visiting a new church as the Connector escorts them into the Sanctuary and to their seat, not to sit alone but with an Elder and his wife or Deacon and his wife who have taken the handoff of the now VIP guest. Here is where the guest not only meets someone else who is interested in them and their story but a perceived “insider” to MBC who invites them to lunch after the service.
But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
To provide any hospitality, aggressive or not, a host must be able to discern and anticipate the needs of their guest. As the guests arrive we are reading faces, postures, and words. Has ‘good’ been done to them this week or ‘evil’? We are prepared to rejoice or mourn with them based upon the need of the moment. This only happens when initiative has been taken to ask questions. So we do. As we initiate, we are discerning by taking our questions to a place that is appropriate, deepening, and meaningful. Are we discerning grief, pain, distance? Or joy, excitement, anticipation? Whatever it is, we tailor our conversation to match what we have discerned.
For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
They need to know that they are going to meet Jesus in a real way today. They know this when they are greeted by Jesus and not Dave or Susan or Mike. Granted, this sounds a little ‘cheesy’ even trite. But when I’m full of me, that is all the guest gets. And I am guilty more than I’m not. However when I’m loaded with the Spirit, they get so much more and know that God is in the house. Our preparation for and delivery of manifesting Christ on Sunday morning matters because our hearts matter to the guests, and so do our faces.
When we invest our Sunday morning in creating a transcendent connecting experience for our guests, sometimers, and church family we will see more guest, fewer sometimers, and all will be “in” our church family.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Q: What’s a Bible passage that has blessed your marriage?
10 Who can find a virtuous wife?
For her worth is far above rubies.
11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her;
So he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.
Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers,
But a prudent wife is from the Lord.
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath,