Last Sunday, the Visitors’ Corner at the Fellowship Hall was set up. Some of you may have noticed it. A few of you came up to speak to the visitors who were seated there and others encouraged the team who were helping out. It was heartwarming.
Within the team, each member played his/her small part in going out of their way to get the various items for the corner like designing the poster, co-ordinating logistics, baking a cake (which was delicious, etc. I saw in each serving person, the desire to welcome visitors whom God may send our way.
In the midst of the preparations and observing what flowed from Sunday’s Visitors’ Corner, several thoughts struck me and I would like to take this opportunity to share two key thoughts.
1. Reaching out
Last Saturday, I casually mentioned to my nephew Matthew (who is 13 years old) that we will be starting a Visitors’ Corner in church and told him to come by and say “hi” to any visitor he sees there, especially if they are teenagers. He then told me he had invited two friends from school to church and one was coming on Sunday. On Sunday morning, I also learnt that Jeremy Tsang (same age as Matthew) also invited a friend from school to church. I must say I was thrilled to hear that. I kept an eye out for the boys and was really pleased to meet Matthew’s friend at the Fellowship Hall and I observed this group of boys from Lighthouse (Matthew, Jeremy and Neil) befriending and talking to the visitors. It was a delightful sight.
I thought to myself that this is how discipleship is and this is how church should be. This is how we are to share our lives and our faith in a simple and real way. I started to ask myself some difficult questions. These boys are reaching out to their friends in school. What are the rest of us doing? Do we notice the people around us? Do we even care if they know the Lord Jesus? Does it cross our minds to invite our friends, family, colleagues, neighbours to church, to Lighthouse, TCH, Seniors’ Fellowship, to Discovery Class or to Friendship Events? If not, we need to search deep within to ask ourselves: why not?
I was reminded of what Billy Graham did through what was coined “Operation Andrew”. It is a “bring a friend” to church approach and is based on John 1:40-45.
“40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Let us be like Andrew and Philip to reach out to our family and friends and introduce them to Jesus, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Someone once said that the one main reason why so many people don’t go to church is because they were not invited. Let’s prayerfully take that step of inviting.
In reflecting on the above, some thoughts crossed my mind. If we do bring friends and family to PSPC, will they find us to be a warm and welcoming church? Would they see Jesus in us in the way we relate to strangers, in the way we relate to one another?
Many of us know the Biblical teaching on hospitality. We are reminded not to “neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). We are to practice hospitality (Romans 12:13b) and to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:9). It is also clearly taught that one of the marks of a leader is one who is hospitable (Titus 1:8).
There are numerous Old Testament passages and examples of how important it was for the people of Israel to show hospitality to strangers and aliens, to share bread with the hungry and even bring the homeless into the house (Isaiah 58:6-7). Our God is a God of love, mercy and grace.
My personal assessment of myself and many in our church (I apologise if I offend anyone here) is that most of us are not hospitable people. We tend to protect our time, territory, cliques, comfort, personal space and our homes more than caring for strangers, outsiders and people on the fringe. Hospitality goes beyond the Visitors’ Corner and right into our lives and homes. Are we prepared to open doors and be inconvenienced? Can others see the love of Jesus in our lives, homes and our actions?
My hope and prayer is that we will allow the Lord to show us and teach us in this area and may we become a more warm, loving and caring congregation. Hope to see you and your friends at the Visitors’ Corner soon.