March 2018

Over the past decade or so television has made a move towards more and more so called “reality” programming. Networks are moving farther away from scripted sit coms and dramas. Our television providers have found that they can save money and still hold our attention with these sorts of shows. I have to admit that I have been a big fan of Deadliest Catch, Storm Chasers, and Undercover Boss.
Undercover Boss is an interesting show because it shows various CEO’s going undercover in their own businesses to see how their employees are performing. Sometimes they find people are shirking their work. Other times they find people who cause other sorts of problems. Still other times they find stellar employees who are really working hard and getting the job done often in spite of profound challenges in their own personal and family lives without proper recognition of their efforts. Eventually the identity of the boss is revealed to the horror or delight of the people with whom they have been working.
Jesus once told us that he came into the world like Undercover Boss. Mother Theresa paraphrased his words so brilliantly when she said that Jesus comes to us in “distressing disguise.” Like so many in the Old Testament who entertained angel’s unaware, Jesus is saying that we are entertaining him unaware. He seems to suggest that he will come to us disguised as strangers, the poor, the naked, and the least of these. The implication seems to be that we ought to treat every human being like they are Jesus.
I wonder what church would be like if we treated every stranger that entered our church as if they were Jesus. I hope we would greet him and welcome him. I hope that we would introduce him to those around us. I hope that we would invite him to have deeper fellowship with us. I hope that we would do whatever we could to make him feel at home.
We are blessed at Main Street UMC to be a church that attracts a lot of people. We may be a moderate sized church, but on a given week we have an unusually large number of visitors for a church our size. People are moving here all the time. Others are staying for the winter. Still others are just visiting us for the week. That means we are blessed with the unusual challenge to regularly welcome more and more strangers.
The past few weeks I have been leading a class on Welcoming Ministry at 9 AM. I have been trying to do what I can to build on the hospitable nature that already exists here at Main Street. I believe that Main Street is a warm church, but like every church could grow in our practice of hospitality.
Let me make some things for us to consider on Sunday morning. Experts say that most people decide whether or not they will continue to come to a church within the first 7 minutes of their arrival. Long before the choir ever sings their special and long before the pastor ever preaches, most people have formed a lasting impression. That means those initial 7 minutes are crucial.
Some suggestions for us to ponder. Greet anyone within a ten foot radius of your seat. Say hello. Welcome them to Main Street. Find out their name and try to remember it. Maybe even write their name down in case you see them sitting in your section again. Introduce them to those around you that you know. Invite them to join us after church in our Fellowship Hall, and maybe even invite them to a Sunday school class or weekday small group. If they have kids, let them know about our youth program and children’s church. Make sure they meet the pastor. When you see them again at church or outside of church try to call them by name. Do what you can to make them feel like we are glad that they have come and that this is a place where people can build lasting friendships. In short, greet them as if they were Jesus in an episode of Undercover Boss.