A few days ago, I was out walking and I came across this bug hotel. I have come across these structures many times but on this occasion it started a train of thought about what it means to be welcoming.
Every part of a bug hotel is designed to help an insect to feel like it is in a safe and secure space. They are designed to help the bugs feel at home.
The day after this walk, I spent some time with people in a local church helping them to think about what God was saying to them and one of the areas we had identified on a previous visit was about welcoming. Perhaps it was with this in mind that my train of thought started about how the hotel illustrated what a good welcome looks like.
The hotel had been built for the benefit of insects rather than for the benefit of the people building it.
When I read the sign it became obvious how each and every part of the structure had been put in place to provide a suitable habitat for the various types of insect.
All of this got me wondering what churches are for. Are they built just for the benefit of Christians or is it our hope that people who are on a journey of faith might find them a natural habitat as well?
Many churches focus exclusively on their ‘official welcome’ and there isn’t always much of a focus on what I call ‘the real welcome’.
In the bug hotel, the ‘official welcome’ is the sign which makes lots of promises about the hotel. In churches, the official welcome is often the website or other publicity and on a Sunday morning the
bouncers official welcomers who are usually at the church doors shaking hands.
In the bug hotel, the real welcome is the habitat itself which actually matches what it says on the sign. In churches, ‘the real welcome’ is the people who hopefully match the promises made by the church website. On a Sunday morning the real welcome is made by people, other than the person on the door whose job it is, who talk to and who show a genuine interest in people who are new or newer to the church.
One of the things that I am finding the most exciting at Orchard Baptist at the moment is the way that the new people who have joined us are all describing us as being welcoming.
Being welcoming and accessible is one of our 6 values and it really does describe what Orchard is like. I am really blessed to be a part of a church that understands the importance of a ‘real’ rather than just an ‘official welcome’.
As a church, we try hard to make what we do understandable and easy to follow for people who are seeking faith and in doing this we hope that we are welcoming people in the way that Jesus wants us to.
Think about the church you area part of:
Who is it for?
Is it a Construction just for Christians or for the Curious as well?
Do we want it to be just for Followers of Jesus or is it for those trying to Find their way towards him?
How welcoming is the church?
What could we do to make the church more welcoming?
How does being part of the church give life?
The bug hotel doesn’t exist to make bugs comfortable. It exists to give them life!
If our welcome is just focused on comfort then we are misrepresenting Jesus and what following him means. A real welcome into a journey with Jesus involves life and the offer of life in all of its fullness.
Sadly though, many churches suck the life out of people rather than giving it to them freely.
How do we welcome people into the fullness of life that Jesus promised?
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