Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Dear Friends of the Living Messiah,
WHY DOES THE CHURCH EXIST? The short answer is “mission.” But so much is packed into the word “mission.” What is the Church’s primary mission?
“WORSHIP IS THE FOUNTAINHEAD” is a metaphor Martin Luther liked to use. Everything flows out of worship where God’s Word is spoken and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are celebrated. As we are the Lord’s Church, God calls us to do many things, but all of them flow out of our worship of God. To put that another way, we are a worshiping community which also does education, outreach, youth ministries, fellowship activities, and lots of other things. We are not an educational institution that also happens to worship. We are not a social club that also worships. First and above all else, we are a worshiping community.
THE MONTHS WITH THE MOST GUESTS IN WORSHIP are July and August. Many of the guests in those months come looking for a church home. Notice: They come to worship to see if this might be home for them. Not many attend a class or an activity to decide if they might want to come to worship, so worship is the widest entryway to welcome newcomers into Messiah Lutheran. Okay, what is most important to them as they look for a church home?
“THEY MOST WANT TO HEAR A GOOD SERMON,” a preacher may think. “They most want to hear good music,” a church musician may think. Of course, guests in worship do want to hear good music and preaching. But most important for newcomers is this: “Will these people accept me and care about me?” Above all, they want compassion and community. Even if the music is great and the sermon is, too, if they sense they are surrounded by people who are uncaring and cold, they will go elsewhere or (much worse) give up on finding a church home.
SEE WHAT YOUR MISSION IS NOW ON SUNDAY MORNINGS? Find a guest and find a way to say “Welcome.” You ask, “What do I do if I don’t know if the person is a guest or a longtime MLC member?” Try this: “I’m [your name here]. I don’t believe we have met.” Next, if you have hooked into a live prospect, try to find a way to introduce the person to our Outreach Director, Claire Strand, or to someone you think has things in common with the guest. And I will tell you a secret: YOU taking the time to welcome them will make a much bigger impression than any of us on the church staff will. That’s because guests think we are just doing our jobs when we welcome them, but when you care, that says much more to them about Messiah Lutheran Church.
COME TO WORSHIP, even though it is summer time. Look for guests and say to them, “Welcome to Messiah Lutheran Church.” When you do, you might be talking to an angel (see above). And you might be talking to a new lifelong friend.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Scott Peterson