Many of you know I am a avid blog reader. I have shown a few people how to "share blogs" from Wordpress, Flipboard, Twitter or Facebook to Evernote. For me, this is an efficient way to put things in a place where I can come back and read them later. The good stuff I can write about and share with the leadership around me. Well, this morning I had some time on the back porch with a cup of coffee to "catch up" on digital pile of reading. One article got me to thinking about guests and visitors. Plus, I love a good "tongue in cheek" article anyway. This morning I was reviewing a blog post by Thom S. Rainer entitled, "Ten Commandments for Guest-Friendly Church Members." It is a fun little article that make a good point about setting a priority to make sure that our church guests feel welcome. I think you will enjoy it. I especially love number 4 - Thou shalt not fill up the back rows first. Now Dr. Rainer, you know you have gone to meddling now. Everyone knows that Baptist sure do love the back row. I even sit there on Sunday night. Come to think of it, I often meet guests on the back rows of our Baptist church. Now number 3 -Thou shalt not sit on the ends of the rows, makes more sense.
I often talk with our Sunday School/Biblical Community leadership about having a "guest strategy". A plan on how we will welcome a guest into our Bible studies in a way that puts them at ease and makes them feel welcome. Yeah, number 10 - Thou shalt greet someone you don’t know, should come as no surprise to the Adult Leadership of FBCRR. It dawned on me this morning that I had never defined or explained the difference between a guest and a visitor. You know they are different and they require different treatment.
A visitor is someone that shows up at the door. Generally, they have an agenda. They have a plan for how long they plan to stay. I looked the term visitor up on all knowing Google and I was presented with this definition - "a person visiting a person or place, especially socially or as a tourist" A TOURIST - one just seeing the sights. Visiting a person or a place - been there done that and have the T-shirt to prove it.
A guest is someone that I have anticipated. If you are a guest in our home, you get the good chair. If you are afraid of dogs, well, our dog goes in the kennel. If you love dogs our dog will do all of her tricks. We even clean in the corners. When you arrive the porch light is on and you receive a warm welcome. You are our guest. Mr. Google defines guest as "a person who is invited to visit the home of or take part in a function organized by another." Invited to take part. A personal invitation to take part. I love having guests in our home and I am always honored to be a guest. Hospitality is a gift of God. Hospitality is directed toward guests. Mr. Google defines hospitality as "the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers." Friendly and generous.... Sounds pretty Christ-like to me.
I think Dr. Rainer is on to something. More churches need to have guests. We need to be prepared to practice hospitality with extra generosity. Guest speaks of relationship. Relationships that can become friendships. Trusted friendships that can form the basis for transformational Bible study. So I guess this Sunday is a call to action. Big smiles, warm greetings and remember number 7 - Thou shalt not gather too long in your holy huddles. Remember we have guests, and we don't want them standing on the outside looking in.