The Door of Hospitality
This fall, several Elmhurst CRC staff members will be writing about new beginnings happening around church. This week, Lisa Capozzoli continues telling our “East Side Story” through various doorways of hospitality that ought to remain open. - Pastor Gregg
Our church has always been warm and friendly, open and inviting. As far as churches go, we do an outstanding job of welcoming people, striking up conversations with guests, and talking with long-term members. We have greeters and ushers, young and old, ready to receive us each Sunday morning.
Our ability to greet and welcome has just increased, which is a good thing. We can never have too much hospitality.
You may have noticed that along with the brand-new parking lot, we also have access to another set of doors on the east side of church. Doors that are meant to welcome you, to welcome guests, and to welcome the world to worship, to the gospel, and to a life in Christ.
But, with all our zest for hospitality, we also need to be aware of the barriers that exist for people who are not part of our church community. To many people, the doors of the church seemed closed. For example, you probably know people who feel that they couldn’t go to our church because they can’t get past The Lifestyle Door. They think things like:
- “My lifestyle isn’t good enough. I’m just not clean-living enough.”
- “Maybe, if I quit smoking [or drinking or swearing or….]”
- “Perhaps if I hadn’t been divorced three times.”
- “Maybe if I hadn’t had trouble with the law.”
- “Perhaps if I didn’t watch pornography.”
A hospitality question for our church is: How can we communicate to people that our church is not a Museum for Saints, but instead, a Hospital for Sinners and that all of us are ongoing patients?
For other people out there, The Appearance Door seems to lock them out of the church. They think:
- “I don’t look like them.”
- “I’m a different color.”
- “I’m a different age-group.”
- “I speak with another accent.”
- “I’ve got this body art on me.”
- “I don’t wear their sorts of clothes.”
Another hospitality question is: How do tell those who feel those things that our church serves a God who loves us so much, that when he came to earth he wore the rags of a peasant, so that ordinary people, like you and I, would know they were welcome in his presence?
A further barrier to involvement in the local church is The Rules Door. The people who face this barrier think:
- “I don’t know the regulations and rituals there.”
- “I’m not sure when to stand up or sit down, when to sing or when to pray.”
- “Are there hand-signs I’m supposed to know?”
- “It’s so embarrassing and uncomfortable when I don’t know the rules.”
The charge for our community is to be on the lookout for people who seem to be uncertain as they move around this place. Make room for them to sit, even if they come late. Offer yourself as a welcoming guide.
The final door I want to encourage us to open wide for others is The Relationship Door. I met two young women out in the community a few weeks ago. I invited them to come visit our church.
“We don’t know anybody there,” they said.
I smiled. “Sure you do,” I said. “Now you know me and I’ll introduce you around.”
They started coming.
Do you know that more than 80 percent of people who visit a church do so because somebody gave them a personal invitation? Do you know that they usually only stay if they form several real relationships?
So I encourage us all to take a moment and sit down with someone we don’t know and learn their story. Ask somebody to have a cup of coffee. Invite someone new into your group. Build some fresh relationships.
Let us continue to do the good work of sharing the hospitality of Jesus Christ with the world. As we open our church doors, let us make sure that we are sensitive to the barriers of entry that others may feel and that keeps them from being part of God’s Kingdom. Let us open the Door of Hospitality.
~ Lisa Capozzoli
Lisa Capozzoli is the Director of Care and Community at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church.