Speaking to the Soul – March 29

Ministry of welcome

“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” Mark 9:37

I often think that the most crucial ministry in any church is in the hands of the welcomers, those wonderful people who stand at the door of the church and welcome people as they arrive. This verse helps us to understand the importance of welcoming. When we welcome people what we are actually doing is welcoming the Lord himself, and if we are welcoming him then God the Father is also being welcomed.

Jesus used the illustration of a little child for a very clear reason. At the time, children were seen as being of no significance. They had no power and lacked any legal status. The attention that Jesus gave to children was completely out of line with the thinking of his day. When the disciples famously tried to push away the children, it was their way of showing respect to their rabbi. They assumed that Jesus wouldn’t want to be bothered by noisy children. How wrong they were. Jesus turned their thinking upside down and said that when they welcomed the people who were considered the lowest and least in their society, they were actually welcoming him.

The test of any church is how well it welcomes the lowest and the least. James identified the problem of churches discriminating between the rich and the poor. He agonisingly described the warm welcome that was given to a rich person, and the surly rudeness meted out to a poor person in dirty clothes. The rich person was given an important seat and the poor person was told to “sit over there, or else sit on the floor” (James 2:2-4). James was appalled by this attitude and makes it clear that God has no time for discrimination. Everyone should be loved and welcomed.

We can all share in the ministry of welcome, but I do encourage you to acknowledge and thank God for those who head up this vital ministry in your church. Remember that they are not just welcoming people, but Jesus himself.

What could you do to encourage the ministry of welcome in your church?
Lord God, thank you for welcoming me. Help me to welcome everyone, but especially the lowest and least. Amen