When I tell stories and talk about the Bible in my church, I invite the kids of the congregation to come up to the front of the church to sit with me. Sometimes I say, “Come on up here and make yourselves at home.”
Now, please notice the expression I used just now to invite you children to sit with me. I said, “Make yourselves at home.” We usually use that expression when somebody is visiting us: “We’re all family, we’re all friends; let’s be comfortable together. Make yourself at home.”
I’ll bet you can think of some ways to help people feel at home when they visit your home or your church.
In the Bible, in the 14th chapter of the Book of Acts, St. Luke says something like this: “God opened the door of faith unto everybody. God opened the door of the church to everybody. And the people of the church made the other people feel at home.”
I have a couple of stories for you. One time I went on a vacation trip. I was away from my own home for two weeks, and I was away for two Sundays. I went to church each of those Sundays, went to two different churches.
In the first church, I went in, and it was a big church with lots of people around, but nobody looked me in the eye and nobody said hello to me. No, wait, I take that back. The minister said hello to me and said that he was real glad I had come. And one other person did say hello. As I came out of church, there was a guest book for visitors to sign. When I went up to the guest book to put my name in it, there was a lady with her back to me, and she was resting her elbow on the guest book. So I gently lifted up her elbow and I said, “Excuse me.” She could figure out then that I was a visitor, and she told me she was glad I had come to her church. But other than that, I don’t think anybody at that church said a word to me.
I attended another church the next week in a different part of the country. It was also a big church, like the first. As I came up to the door, I saw that everybody was going up to a big table before they went inside the church. On the table there were nametags and pens. People were writing their names on name tags and sticking the tags on their shirts and dresses, and as I went into that church, maybe a dozen—maybe even twenty people!—looked at my name tag and said, “Good morning, Bud! We’re glad you’re here.” Some asked me if I was a visitor, and they chatted with me, and after church the people served juice and coffee, and people stood around and talked, and ... and, well, you know, I bet you don’t have a hard time guessing which church I felt more at home in.
Sure. The church where the people found out my name and said hello and acted like they were glad to see me.
Here is another story about my trip. I traveled around on a Greyhound bus. Now, if you have ever been on a Greyhound, you know it isn’t like a city bus that has real hard seats with low backs on them. No, a Greyhound has these really big, soft seats that go all the way up behind you so you have a headrest that’s about as thick as a pillow, and it’s got cloth cushions and nice armrests. The seats are like airplane seats or a living room recliner—there’s a little button on the armrest so when you push it, the seatback goes back so you can lean back and get really comfortable.
Well, I was on the Greyhound, leaving a big city late one night, and I was watching the city lights as we went out of town. But in a few minutes after we left the city there wasn’t much to see while we were on the highway, so I decided to go to sleep. I took off my eyeglasses and put them in my camera bag. I put my seatback back, put my jacket over me like a blanket, and I snuggled down.
I was just about to go to sleep when something hit me on the head and went down my back. I sat up, and something else hit me on the shoulder and went down behind my back! And then, a third thing hit me! So I reached behind me and I felt something wet and scary! What could it be, I wondered. I held onto the wet, scary thing, and I turned on the little light up above me, and guess what? It was a set of false teeth! And then I found a ring! And a wristwatch!
So I stood up and turned around and looked behind me, and I saw an old lady in the next seat, and she was getting ready for bed! She was taking out her teeth and taking off her jewelry and putting them on top of my seatback just as if it were a dresser top in her own house. Well, that’s the way the lady made herself feel at home on the Greyhound bus.
I like to see people making themselves at home when they travel, and I like to see kids and grownups helping visitors feel at home in churches. Just like the Bible verse: “God opened the door of faith to everybody. And the people of the church made the other people feel at home.” I love to see church people welcoming visitors and helping them feel glad to be together with other Christians to learn about Jesus and to see how the people in that church love Jesus. If I visit your church sometime, can I count on you to help me make myself at home?