It’s hard to be new. I once joined a gym (yes, it's true!) and I remember walking around and looking at all the equipment and having no real idea of where to begin or what to do. There were others there who appeared to know what they were doing and they appeared to know each other too for they were conversing, and spotting for each other, and even laughing together. Meanwhile, I awkwardly made my way around from one station to the next, feeling totally out of my element, and totally alone. It’s hard to be new.
God has a heart for the newbie, the outsider. In fact, the gospel is all about God’s love for the outsider. Our sin had left us outside of God’s fellowship, but God loved us when we were still on the outside and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us so that He could welcome us into fellowship with Him. God even commanded Israel to treat outsiders with special grace:
‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)
In effect, God says, “you know what it’s like to be new, to be an outsider. So treat outsiders like insiders, love them as you love yourself, treat them as you would want to be treated if you were the outsider.” This is just what our Welcome Team seeks to do, week after week.
Our Welcome Center team members are always on the lookout for new people. They seek to greet new people warmly, help them feel a bit more comfortable in a new and unfamiliar setting, and try to make a connection with them in a way that will make a return visit easier and much more likely. It's really just simple hospitality, making guests feel more at home. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, with an intriguing twist,
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
But our Welcome Team can’t do it all. The call to be hospitable toward those who are new is for all of us. It’s so easy for us to become so comfortable at church with our routines and our friends that we might not even notice someone who looks a bit lost and alone. But the gospel calls us to be like Jesus and to not just look out for our own interests, but also the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), and especially the interests of those who are new (3 John 5).
So be on the lookout for new people (the white gift bags are a dead giveaway!). Introduce yourself with a smile. Ask them a few questions to get to know them a little. Offer to give them a basic tour (restrooms, nursery, classrooms, etc.). And who knows, you may even greet an angel! And of course, we can always use a few extra smiling faces at the Welcome Center. Join us!