By Mark A. Taylor
Ben Cachiaras, senior pastor with Mountain Christian Church in Joppa, Maryland, is one of CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s 12 contributing editors. Like all of them, he has great insight into human nature, great passion for the gospel’s potential to change lives, and great ideas for the church channeling God’s blessings to our troubled world.
He met with us in our annual contributing editors retreat last week and wrote about it in his blog this week:
At dinner one night we passed through a buffet line and when it was my turn at the meat counter the guy cutting the roast beef and ham peered at me from behind the sneeze-guard glass. I expected him to say, “Beef or ham?” But instead he asked, “What’s your name?”
“Ben,” I said.
Then he flashed a warm smile and replied, “Welcome home, Ben.” I held out my plate, he flopped a slab of meat on it, and I moved slowly on down the line. I heard him ask the person behind me the same question, with the same gracious hospitality: “Welcome home, Jeff.” As I drifted further away I kept looking back at the meat man, and sure enough he was greeting every single person in the lengthy line with the same greeting and welcome.
Glancing around the room I saw hundreds of people, and realized that every single one of them had been welcomed by the guy with a funny hat and big knife. In our group alone we had a hipster from Colorado, a bald guy from Indiana, an older woman from L.A., a tall, skinny guy from New York City, and a Canadian with spiked hair. But each one of them heard the same words: “Welcome.” Around the room were men and women, blacks, Asians, whites, and Hispanics. Oldsters, youngsters, and speakers of a dozen different languages had all come holding their plate out—and every single one of them in that diverse group of humanity had heard their name affixed to the same gracious words: “Welcome home.”
That’s not just an example of good hospitality in the Magic Kingdom; it’s a picture of what life is like in God’s kingdom. It isn’t just how Disney execs have said they want it to be in their restaurant, it’s how Jesus desires it to be in his church.
Mountain, a thriving megachurch with a missional perspective, has been featured in Christian Standard a number of times. The church is growing, its leaders have much to contribute, and its people are serving in Jesus’ name throughout their community.
This has happened, we can be sure, for several reasons. But none of them is more significant than an attitude that says, “Everyone is welcome here because everyone is welcome in God’s embrace.”
Extending that welcome is a challenge for every church, a point Ben drove home in his blog post:
Is your church a place . . . where “everyone is welcome” is more than what you say, but what is actually true? Where real “everyones” truly feel welcome?
Is your home a place like that? Where folk who don’t look, act, or think like you hold out their plate and are welcomed around your table?
If not, why not?
What is it going to take before we recognize that failure in this area is failure to live the gospel?