Do you know the feeling when you go to someone’s house for the first time? Maybe you are just getting to know them or even have yet to meet them in person. You walk up to the house, hoping you’re at the right door and that this isn’t one of those places that never uses their front door. You ring the doorbell and hope they hear it. Then the door opens, and you come inside and stand awkwardly in their front entranceway, not knowing where to put your shoes or coat. It’s as if your feet are clued to the floor waiting for instruction from the host.
Then, even if they’ve made you feel welcome and directed you on where to put your stuff, you keep to where the host directs you. Usually that’s the kitchen, dining room, and living space. Even going to the bathroom becomes a question. You look around, and ask crazy questions like “Do you have a bathroom I could use?” As if the alternative would be “…or would it be better for me to run home and use mine?” You just tread carefully because you’re new to the space, to the relationship, and want to be respectful.
Now compare that experience with the home of someone you know a lot better. In this place, you know where to enter, you still knock but then come right in, not needing to ask where your coat or shoes go. You find your own way to the bathroom, and you might even grab a drink out of the fridge asking if you’ve gotten really comfortable. But, you still keep to the main gathering areas. You wouldn’t likely wander into the basement or master bedroom on your own. And if, for instance, the paper towels ran out, you wouldn’t rummage through all their storage to find it without asking.
Now compare both of those experiences to how you feel at your parent’s house. This is home away from home. It might be the home you grew up in, or if not, certainly a place you’ve spent some time. You don’t knock or feel awkward about entering, but feel comfortable coming right in. You know where most things are in the house, and if something is needed, you run and grab it, regardless of where it is in the house. And what if you were at a party where your parents had guests over? You would feel totally comfortable acting as a host on their behalf. You’d answer the door and direct them on where to hang their coats, put their shoes, and you might even offer them something to drink. This isn’t your home, but you feel like you can represent the owners of the home well because you’re their child. If you brought a guest with you to this party, they would follow you as you comfortably enter the house, listen to your directions on where to put things, and accept hospitality from you as a representative of your parents. You’d say things like “go ahead, they won’t mind at all.” You know your parents, and are fully comfortable making other guests feel comfortable in the home on your parent’s behalf. You invite them to feel that they can be comfortable here.
Well, this is our responsibility in the Kingdom of God. We are given a great privilege of being called God’s children!
“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)
The privilege of calling God “Father,” even “Daddy” gives us an incredible level of closeness. We know Him. We love Him. We understand more about Him than someone who doesn’t know Him understands. And those that don’t know Him may feel like that guest that has never been in the house before and doesn’t know the host. Even simple things may feel awkward and uncertain to them. They don’t know where to enter, what’s appropriate, or how to act. It’s our responsibility to make them feel at home.
This concept has application both for us corporately as a church and for each of us individually.
Especially in our worship gatherings, but really in any group setting of believers, new people might just feel like they don’t know what to do. I was never more aware of this than when I attended a service at a church that operates very differently than ours, and everyone around me was responding to cues from the platform and would speak something or to take a physical posture at times throughout the service. I felt like a complete outsider, and I felt really uncomfortable. In that moment, I asked myself “what things do we do every Sunday that make new people feel exactly like I feel right now?” The truth is, if we’re aren’t focused on this question, we draw assumptions. We assume everyone knows where to park, where to enter, where we gather, what the words of the song are, where to find certain books in the Bible, what our ministry-specific names mean, and a whole host of other stuff. The truth is, they can walk away feeling like an outsider and they won’t feel at all welcome.
Imagine the same scenario with you at your parent’s house, except you don’t greet them at the door. The doorbell rings, but you stay on the couch and assume they will find their way in. Or maybe at this party, everyone is bringing a gift or wearing something specific, but you didn’t bother to tell them. Or maybe, after they’ve been walking all around the house with their shoes on, you tell them your parents get really mad when people don’t take off their shoes. What about our environment makes people feel this way? How can we ensure that they are invited to make themselves feel at home?
This is our responsibility to be involved in disciple-making. Using the same scenario with your parent’s house, imagine you’re standing on the front porch at their house as someone is pulling in the driveway. While they pull up, you’re waving them in and yelling “Hey! Come on in!” But as soon as they get out of their car, you put your coat on, get in your own car, and drive away. You invited them here, but you didn’t do anything to help them along and make them feel welcome.
We need to, on a personal level, invite people in to the family of God AND hold their hand as they grow and learn. Be there to answer questions and help them know that they are just as welcome to become children of God as you are. We’re all adopted into the family. For those who have been in longer, it’s our privilege to invite new people in and show them the ropes. When we make our relationship with Christ all about us, and we never link arms with others, we waste the potential for our maturity in faith to bless those are newer.
So today, consider how you’re using your privilege as an “insider,” as a child of God, to make people feel welcome. Be a good host and represent the owner well.