“We are an inviting, welcoming, and diverse family of God. As His servants, we seek to lead each person to a growing personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We are passionately dedicated to praying, studying the Bible, celebrating worship, equipping people to serve and partnering in local and world missions. We desire to build fellowship based on the transforming, unconditional love of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit.”
This is our new mission statement. It attempts to express who we are, what we do, and what we would like to see happen as a result of it all. It’s not pithy or catchy, but that’s OK. We’re not trying to create a marketing slogan. We are trying to say something of substance about ourselves. Over the next few weeks I’ll be offering a series of brief reflections on various pieces of this statement as we attempt to interpret it and apply to our life together at Bayshore Baptist Church.
I’ll start with the first two adjectives in the opening line. “We are inviting and welcoming…family of God.” These two words go together. The welcoming piece seems obvious enough. In the same way that the Triune God welcomes us into His life through the gracious work of the Son, we are called to welcome others. As a life-long southerner, I grew up in a culture that prized hospitality (though we were admittedly and sinfully selective in who chose to show that hospitality to). Hospitality is a way of sharing life with someone else. That’s why the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 12:13 to “Practice hospitality.” We are called to be a welcoming people.
But welcoming others is only half the equation. Welcome refers to what we do for someone when they bother to show up at our place – whether it is the neighbor coming over to ask for a cup of sugar, or a first time visitor showing for worship. But we are called to do more than just stand at the door and hope that someone mysteriously feels the urge to come our way. We are to actively invite them to come. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22: 1-14) the master has the servants go out into the streets and invite people to come to the party. That same calling extends to us. We are called to invite others to the party. Whether they choose to come is up to them.
To be a welcoming church implies that we are first an inviting church. But to be an inviting church requires that we be a welcoming church. Otherwise we don’t have anything worth inviting others to!
Let’s be intentional about both.