June 12, 2015
You all amaze me. This week was remarkable! We hosted 304 other United Methodist churches for the Annual Conference of North Texas Methodists. One of our volunteers told me that someone came to them and said, “When I think of the definition of radical hospitality, I will think of St. Andrew.” This is who we are. Wow!
To tell the truth, I discovered this fact when I became a pastor here. I came to St. Andrew five years ago in a tough personal place and you all loved me well. You showed me grace and fed me food. You have become my friends and my church family. I am so glad that you showed this same hospitality to the guests who came to our church this week. This is what church is supposed to feel like.
At this conference, we had a guest speaker who was blunt in his assessment that this is not what most people feel when they go to church. We have an entire world of people who consider church to be irrelevant, hypocritical, and unwelcoming. How is that the case when my experience is so different? How can that be when you amaze me with your hospitality, your generosity, and your excitement about the mission of our church?
I think it is because sometimes we all forget that our primary job is to welcome those who we don’t know. Annual Conference was great training – the people who were guests had lanyards around their necks indicating that they do not know their way around. The St. Andrew volunteers had navy shirts with big letters that said, “How can I help?” on the back. It was easy to tell who was a guest and who was a host. Sunday mornings are a lot more complicated. The new visitors who are confused by the layout of our church don’t have signs around their necks saying, “I have no idea where I am going.” The long-time church members don’t have big letters on their shirts that ask, “How can I help?”
The solution? Wow everybody. You have wowed me as your pastor with your commitment and faith and hospitality. You did so with every single person who showed up at the conference this week. This is what we call great practice. Sunday morning, there will be new people who come to church wondering what kind of people we are. They will come having been discouraged by their previous church or by the experience of their parents when they were young. Wow them. You may not be able to recognize them. They won’t have any distinguishing features. So respond to them like you did to the visitors at our church this week. When in doubt, welcome everyone. You can’t miss anybody when everyone leaves wowed.
To all of you who helped this week, thank you. To all of you who will join us every Sunday – I can’t wait to see who you will welcome next.