Vol.IX No.V Pg.4
July 1972

Welcome, Stranger!

Robert F. Turner

It seems simple enough to walk up to someone and say, Hello, my name is John Doe, and I want to welcome you to our meeting. But it must have some dreadful effect on brethren, if the few who try it is any indication.

I know many of the regular excuses given. They rush out and are gone before we can get to them. Right! Now that we know they do this, we can postpone our visits with friends and relatives, and hurry out to foyer and parking lots to intercept them. We are the ones who go the second mile — remember? We do not wear our feelings on our sleeves, but show them what Christianity has done for us.

I dislike hypocritical back-slapping and glad-hand tactics. Yes, so do I. Hypocrisy has no place in the conduct of saints, so leave it out. Our greetings should be warm and sincere. Or, could we mean we are not happy to see the visitor at the meeting? If this is the case there is need for a completely new attitude. I sometimes suspect that our lack of concern for others is dire to our own failure to understand and appreciate the blessings in Christ. Every true Christian must surely be happy and anxious for others to hear the news.

Most of our visitors are members of the church, and as much obligated to come to me as I to them. I even heard of one brother who argued that agape love does not necessitate affection. Here is legality gone to seed. The sacrificial selfless nature of agape is far deeper and more meaningful than mere affection, or love of the lovely. But affection. It is the very thing that would make us out—going and eager to cultivate relations we might otherwise ignore. In Rom. 12: 9-10 we read Let love (agape be unassumed . . .. In brotherly love to one another loving warmly. (Philos and phileo in last uses: Marshall.)

We are people; we work with people in our efforts to save souls. There is no perversion of the purpose and work of the church necessitated by our being friendly and courteous to all people everywhere. Particularly should we cultivate this attitude toward saints and non-saints who visit our places of assembly.

As a traveling evangelist I often see rank disregard for this simple courtesy during a meeting. I have met strangers, taken them to local member and introduced them, and soon after leaving them to find others, note that the member has said a perfunctory Hello and then abandoned the visitor. Many brethren seem to have no feeling of obligation to make the stranger feel at home, obtain his name and address for future use, or even show the courtesy we would display in the business world

Perhaps some qualified member should be appointed to make such contacts, and go to the exits early for that purpose. But if we wish to avoid mechanical greeters — if we would develop a genuinely warm church — all members need to cultivate this grace. Your friendly handshake genuine welcome, and personal concern may be the only things, at this point that can prepare a stranger to hear Christ