(photo credit: ComicVine)

(photo credit: ComicVine)

Last Sunday I dropped by a local fast food joint on my way over to the new Blue Ridge Campus. Join me in my flashback, won’t you?

It was roughly 1 PM on a Sunday afternoon. The place was largely deserted, there were less than half a dozen other customers in the building. I was the only one in line when I first walked in. And yet, it didn’t seem like anybody cared that I was there.

I made eye contact with 2-3 employees back in the kitchen and drive through area. And by “eye contact” I mean they stared at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. A couple of them murmured to each other, presumably about the guy in the front that had the audacity to show up at a restaurant at lunch time. Finally, after 45 seconds or so that felt like 45 hours, one of them yelled in the back to some unknown presence, “YOU NEED TO GET UP FRONT.” At that point, I felt like I was in the middle of this old Sinbad stand up routine.

Unknown Presence slowly emerged, half-heartedly taking my order, fumbling over my order, restarting my order because something glitched in my order the first time around. I finally got my food and got out, lest I interrupt any more of their afternoon.

I left the whole experience feeling like I was a burden. It was as though bagging my meal and taking my money was an unfortunate afterthought rather than the core of their existence. In that moment it seemed that everyone put on their uniforms, showed up to work, turned on the ovens, but then failed to realize that the reason for it all was the customer who would eventually walk through the door.

Sadly, we see that too many times in our churches on the weekend. When a guest shows up, they’re going to inherently bring some messiness with them. They’re going to need assistance. They might sit in your seat. They may upset the status quo.

But the guests aren’t the problem.

No, your guests are a large reason your weekend exists. The corporate church gathers to make much of Jesus, yes. But when we gather, we declare something about who Jesus is to the surrounding community. If a guest shows up, they should never feel like a burden. They should be a delight, a welcome addition to the community, an opportunity to put the grace of Jesus on display in their lives.

Churches that are cold and unfriendly…churches that don’t have a plan for “outsiders”…churches that view guests as more of a distraction than a discipleship opportunity…those are churches that have lost sight of why they exist.

People are the mission. They’re not the main thing of your weekend (Jesus fills that role), but they’re the reason that Jesus came. The one you celebrate, the one who came for you, also came for them. The grace of Jesus in our lives dictates that we prepare for our guests and welcome them into the fold.