This problem is so nuanced that we often fail to see it as a problem. The issue must be with the visitor, right? Maybe they aren't really "one of us." If they do decide to come back, what if they try to change the way we do things? What if they vote differently, look weird, and have lifestyles we find objectionable? No one wants to stand up and say "no you can't come back," but that doesn't have to be said verbally for it to be communicated.
At COTHA we have been a welcoming church from the very beginning. I am thankful for that. We don't have to try to inject new DNA into our lives and change completely, opening ourselves to the possibility that a guest may want to visit. We have seen and continue to see guests come Sunday after Sunday. It seems like we just unlock the doors and they show up. We can celebrate this. We are a growing church and that in and of itself makes us unique. Let me pose a question to reflect on: are we truly as welcoming as we could be? Is there anything we could do to send a message, loud and clear, that we expect guests and when they arrive, we'll drop everything to welcome them?
I believe God is calling us to deepen our ability to welcome guests. What God is doing here is too big, too good, too amazing to not want to share it with others. We want people to know that we believe they come to COTHA because God has called them here. We want them to know they are a gift to us. We want them to know that the blessings we have received are blessings we want to share with others. We have been blessed in order to be a blessing.
Our welcome team has done a tremendous job. It's a great ministry and I know it pleases God. We are now poised to deepen and build on the good work that has been done. We are going to focus in on how we can remove any barrier that a guest may feel when they arrive. It is understood that a person makes a decision to return within the first five minutes that they arrive at a church. And so we are going to focus on those first five minutes (and beyond). We are going to make a list, check it again and again and push ourselves to know that we can make an even bigger difference in this corner of the world as we become an even more welcoming presence.
Here's the deal: I want you to pray about whether or not you want to be part of the Welcoming Team. We want to double the size of the team. We want people to be in the parking lots, standing and waiting for a Guest and find ways to express our gratitude for their presence with us. We want to do all in our power to let them know we were praying that they would come. If you are a member of COTHA, is God calling you to help with this? This might be an opportunity for entire families to be part of a ministry together. Let's respond to God's call to welcome the "stranger" and help them not feel strange at all.