Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
When tourists pick a destination to visit, the most popular country in the world is not the World of Disney but France. Last year alone the city of Paris welcomed more than 29 million visitors. Of course, there are those who say that the word “welcomed” is a stretch. They say it is a stretch because, at least in some places, the French have a reputation for being rude, standoffish and even surly.
Recognizing they have a very good possibility of losing the tourist trade to friendlier cities like London, Greensboro or Winston-Salem, the Paris Chamber of Commerce has put out a booklet, Do You Speak Touriste? The booklet, which is to be distributed to waiters, taxi drivers, and sales staff, gives advice on how they, as individuals, can improve the city’s image.
The booklet gives some very down-to-earth, practical advice. For example, it says, “The British like to be called by their first names, while Italians should be shaken by the hand, and Americans reassured on prices.”
With one in ten jobs in Paris dependent on the tourist dollar (or yen, lira, pound or mark), it is important the Parisians get this tourist thing right.
I wonder if anybody has ever thought about writing a similar book for Christian congregations. We could call it, Do You Speak Visitor? Every year our churches have many guests who have been brought to that point in their lives when they long for a relationship with Jesus. Sadly, many of these people come away thinking we are unfriendly, uncaring and cliquish.
There are two problems with that conclusion. First, many times the spiritual vitality and wellbeing of these visitors are dependent on how they perceive the church. The big problem is that when they think we are indifferent to them, they assume Jesus, who gave His life so they might have life, feels the same way.
You and I know nothing could be further from the truth.
Because God wants people to acknowledge His Son as their Savior, He has, in Scripture, given us many practical pieces of advice on how we are to deal with people we may consider outsiders. Repeatedly, Jesus told us to do unto others as we want them to do to us. He said we were to follow Him and be a servant to others.
And St. Paul, writing to the church in Philippi, said we were to count others as being more important than ourselves. That, along with a sincere smile and a pleasant, “Good morning,” will do much to advance the receptivity of God’s grace in the hearts of those visiting our churches.
Dear Lord, even as there is joy in heaven over a sinner who repents, may there be joy in our churches over a soul that comes through our church doors to begin or continue as journey with Jesus. Grant that we be people who practice Radical Hospitality with all those around us, in and through Jesus. Amen.
Grace and Peace