<!– Go to www.addthis.com/dashboard to customize your tools –> <div class="addthis_inline_share_toolbox"></div><!– –>Do you remember what it’s like showing up somewhere for the very first time? My hands are sweating right now, just thinking about setting foot in school at the start of each new year. And whether you’re entering a new school year, a new job, or a new church, entering a new place can be daunting.
One Sunday morning visitor named Brian recalled his first-time walking into College Park. While Brian is a self-assured, confident salesman, he described the experience as “intimidating.” It wasn’t be building size or the number of people that intimidated him though. Brian was intimidated because he came broken and needed to hear from God. One of our team members sensed that Brian needed prayer for him and his family, so she gathered a group to pray for him right there on the spot. That Sunday changed everything for Brian. He is now an active member, leads men’s groups, and serves in our Guest Area looking for broken people.
Another visitor, Rose, drove past our church one Wednesday night while contemplating suicide. She felt a nudge to drive into our parking lot. We were holding a kid’s program that night, so the doors were unlocked. One of our staff members “just happened” to stay late and was able to not only meet Rose but also share the gospel with her. Rose was at the end of her rope in her marriage, her relationship with her children, and her life. That night changed everything for her and she made a decision to follow Jesus.
People like Rose and Brian don’t visit our church because we are one of the largest in town, have a good reputation, have good music, good programs, and even good preaching pastor. Those things might figure in there somewhere, but the bottom line is people come to our church because God is drawing them to Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
We don’t know all the reasons that people come to our church for the first time, but we can see with our spiritual eyes when people need our help. We need to be ready for the Holy Spirit to guide us, willing to be one of the first expressions of the gospel of hope that people encounter.
The best way we can be prepared is by making sure we are walking with God. That’s really all I ask of our Hospitality Team here at College Park. Sure, there are good ways to welcome, interact with, and assist others; but I am never worried when I know members of our team have prayed about Sunday, and are trusting God to show them who they need to welcome.
More times than not, God makes the connection. He has already been at work in the life of that visitor. We just need to find them. They may be the person parking next to you in the parking lot or sitting next to you in the Sanctuary. They may be the person standing off by themselves in the Atrium. Watch for that prompting from the Holy Spirit.
I am proud of our Hospitality Team members, who are so kind and helpful to first-time visitors. We understand that we represent Jesus at every door, every desk, and in every aisle. We serve not to gain but because we have gained so much by knowing and being loved by Jesus. Why wouldn’t we express that to all the Brians and Roses who we meet on Sunday?
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13).