Thursday, June 30, 2011

Radical Hospitality...

"Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (Romans 15:7)

That's the opening scripture reference in Bishop Robert Schnase's book, "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations." I don't really think it's a coincidence that he began the list of five with "Radical Hospitality."

I'm going to go ahead and own something up front today. This is mostly rant. I own that. Not necessarily a rant against the Church universal, or any particular congregation. In fact, this really doesn't have anything to do with the church at all. Hmm, I didn't realize that.

The other day, my wife was on a mission. We are moving into a new parsonage, well, new to us, and the church told us to go ahead and pick out bedroom furniture and give them the bill. So, Steph was shopping. She spent all day one day last week going from one furniture store to another looking at furniture, texting me pictures and prices, and trying to find furniture that would be durable, and comfortable, without blowing the budget.

Monday she asked me to go back and look at one set in particular at a store here in Paducah that shall remain unnamed...for now. It had been a long day. I was tired. I was hot. I was dressed in shorts, a Hawaiian shirt, and flip flops, which is pretty much summer attire for me, but was evidently sub-standard for this particular store.

The plan was to just go in, look at this set of furniture from a construction standpoint, and then talk to the church about it, but the sentry at the door was quick to her best snooty accent..."Is there anything I can help you with?" When we told her that we were looking at a set we had found the other day, the chase was on. "Well, was there someone helping you? If so, I need to know who it was." The faster we walked, the harder she chased.

Now, I understand a little about business, not a lot, but a little. And in her defense she may have actually been trying to extend customer service, but the way she came across was more like, "I have to keep an eye on these folks. Flip flops? Indeed."

The conversation may have lasted 30 seconds, but I had all I wanted, so I tapped Steph on the shoulder, told her I was done, and walked out.

See, welcome, or hospitality, or whatever you want to call it is not determined by intention, but rather by perception. Does the person walking through the door FEEL welcome? It's not enough to INTEND to make them feel welcome.

Ok, so maybe this can be a tiny, little bit about the church. We intend to make folks feel welcome, but do they? I'm not sure that I've ever stopped and asked a first time visitor to any church I have served, "Did you FEEL welcome the minute you walked through the door?" Maybe we should.

So, thank you unnamed furniture store for reminding me once again how important it is to make sure everyone who walks through our doors knows without a doubt that they are welcome.


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