By Kirsten Sidebottom
Think about a time when you felt super welcomed into a new setting and not only welcomed, but you felt like the people there -- maybe even the regulars -- actually wanted you to be there. Now reflect on how that made you feel. What did they do to make you feel welcomed? Why does this moment stick out to you?
Now I want you to take another moment to think about a time where you didn't feel welcomed into a particular setting at all. Maybe it was a social event. Maybe even a family dinner. Maybe it was a time when you tried a church for the very first time. Now, really spend a moment to reflect on how that made you feel. What about this moment made you not feel welcomed?
Chances are you probably felt like a million bucks when you were eagerly welcomed somewhere new. You could tell they were sincere in their appreciation of your presence. You probably felt like you were someone special. You felt loved. This warm embrace left you feeling like you belonged. All of a sudden, you felt at ease.
On the other hand, if you’ve ever gone somewhere where you didn't feel welcomed or you felt entirely unnoticed by others, you probably didn’t leave feeling super great about yourself. You definitely didn’t leave with the best impression of the unwelcoming meanies. You may have even felt the pangs of rejection. Truthfully, it probably felt pretty crummy.
Which of the above examples of hospitality (or lack thereof) do you think exemplify the person of Jesus?
A major role of Jesus’ ministry and the commission we are to take part in now, revolves around the idea of hospitality – inviting outsiders in, giving them a seat at the table, bringing strangers and even enemies into relationships as family. Jesus loves when people come to meet with Him. Not only that, but the idea of community and the notion of each one of us belonging to one another as parts of a body, has always been one of God’s priorities. Think about the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit existing as one divine community. Also, we know that Jesus and the rest of heaven gets pumped whenever someone new enters into the family – the angels throw a party in Heaven whenever a sinner is saved, for crying out loud (Luke 15:7-10)! Even think of the parable of the prodigal son. The son wastefully spent all of his inheritance, disrespected his father, and still the father saw him when he was a long way off. At that moment, the father was filled with so much joy and anticipation that he hiked up his robe and sprinted out to embrace his son with full acceptance back into their family. This embrace (and the party that ensued after) is a prime example of how -- regardless of where we’ve been and the things we’ve done -- Jesus jumps out of his seat with eager expectation to welcome us home (Luke 15).
Researchers and theologians everywhere have found that there is one thing each human desires -- to belong. We all have this deep longing within us that hungers for connection with other people. And of course, every single person has a soul longing to be united with God. We are created for connection.
At New Circle, we care that everyone who walks through the door is greeted with love, belonging, acceptance, and enthusiasm.
We serve bagels, coffee, and fruit every week to play a role in the way we welcome people into our community. With all of the food and meal sharing in the Bible (Jesus eating meals, breaking bread, etc.), it's safe to say that there’s something special and meaningful about gathering with food. In Jesus’ times, inviting someone to have a meal signaled a desire to have a deeper relationship with that person. Food breeds community. It's an equalizer, so we all need it. And on that end, not only was Jesus not picky about who he ate with, he was and is generous in his provision for us (John 4:14; John 6:35).
These are the kinds of thoughts that go into how we strive to intentionally make New Circle attendees feel welcome and like they belong and fit it with the family.
While all of this may feel like a weighty explanation for why we choose to serve coffee, fruit, and bagels every week, we know that simple actions at the surface level can reach far beyond what we can even expect. Our desire in seeing Circle City made new is to show people what Jesus is like. Our heart is for every single visitor to simply receive when they come worship with us acceptance -- hugs, high-fives, and caffeine. We want every person to be known, loved, and cared for as soon as they walk into our doors.
It's more than just having a snack on Sundays.
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