Last month, I was reminded why expecting guests at our church on Sundays is so important. Early one morning, my phone rang. Someone had passed away unexpectedly, and the family was requesting a pastor. I got ready as quickly as I could, and headed to meet with the family. Such pastoral emergencies are never easy. This one was tougher than most, because it was a mom who wasn’t yet 40, and the youngest son was in junior high.
What made this particular tragedy make me think of why we should be expecting guests every single Sunday was this: the mom who had passed away had attended our church a few times having been invited by friends who attend our church. Now, I don’t know much about what this mom thought about our church or what she experienced, other than that she enjoyed it and planning on coming back regularly. And out of respect to the family, I won’t share much about her spiritual background here. However, this question rang in my mind after I left that family: What if we hadn’t been ready? What if we weren’t expecting guests the first Sunday she visited our church?
Of course, there is the tension that while God is the one who saves, in his wisdom he uses imperfect humans in his Church to accomplish his will. But still, I’m grateful that when someone who’s time on Earth was near its end joined us on a Sunday, she felt welcomed enough to make at least one return visit. Not only that she heard of a God who loves her and a Savior who sacrificed his own life so that she could find grace. By no means does our church have everything figured out when it comes to creating a great first impression, but it’s something that’s we’ve worked hard on. Some Sundays, it’s tempting to let the small details slip. Who’s going to notice if not every door is staffed, or if the coffee isn’t just right? Does it really matter how long it takes for someone to find a seat, or how crisp the announcements are?
The details may seem insignificant, but they are when you consider that people who may not know Jesus will likely visit your church this Sunday. We have no idea what hangs in the balance.