“…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25:35
The other day as I was thinking about our upcoming family vacation June 25-July 4, traveling and visiting a church somewhere in Park Rapids, MN, I thought to myself, ‘I wonder how we will be welcomed in whatever church we visit?’ Then I got to thinking about the ‘alien’ and the ‘stranger’ in Scripture.
Did you know that the word ‘stranger’ is used 25 times and the word ‘alien’ is used 75 times in Scripture? Interestingly, nearly every time these words are used, God or Jesus is telling us or reminding us that we are to take care of the poor, the widow, and the alien – the stranger. I wonder if God felt like an alien when in the form of Christ on earth? If so, I’ll bet that Christ truly knows how the outsider feels and maybe that is why these important verses can be found so often in Scripture.
This also got me thinking about ministry at House of Prayer. I remember my first year during our cottage meetings people were very proud of the fact that House of Prayer is a very welcoming church. I would tend to agree. However, I was also thinking that maybe we should have a ‘secret visitor’ or an ‘undercover boss’ come and visit our church and tell us how we are really doing.
I hope this summer as you are on your family travels that you will visit another church and that you will remember what it was like to be a stranger. And, I wonder what it is like for ‘outsiders’ to worship with us at House of Prayer. What more could we be doing to make sure that strangers and aliens are welcomed at House of Prayer? I wonder beyond saying that House of Prayer is welcoming, what else these visitors might say about us? Could they describe our spirit of worship? And is it uplifting? Do they know if we care about our community? Would they even know if we love God?
The book I am currently reading, “The Spirit and Culture of Youth Ministry” by Roland Martinson who is Dean of the faculty at Luther Seminary, says that both visitors and members alike should be able to describe ministry in vital vibrant congregations that is, “Warm, has a challenging community climate…is welcoming… a place that is open to change… where all participants experience love and support…and where God is central in people’s lives”
I hope as you are traveling this summer you will ask yourself as you visit, does this church exhibit these characteristics? And, as you return to House of Prayer, consider if these statements are representative of the ministry at House of Prayer? – Have a great safe summer, and safe travels! – Pastor Dan