It used to work like this. Through the working of the Holy Spirit you came to faith in Jesus Christ, accepting Him as your Lord and Saviour. You then studied the Word and the various creeds and doctrines of a particular way. You got to know their liturgy and rules. You started to attend this church’s gatherings and “behaved” in a way that proved that you did your homework. Only then you got accepted or inducted or whatever the case may be.
Sometimes for some it still works like this. But I do think a better and I dare say a more gospel like order is on the rise in the approach of churches. This order is: Belong, then behave and then believe. It works like this- churches practice radical hospitality, inviting people into their community and gatherings with open arms. This is done on the theological basis that every person being created by God and in His image is equal before God and therefore welcome. How deeply and how long a new person invited wants to partake in the community and its activities is up to the individual. If the person shows interest in the line of thinking and the disciplines that this community of faith sees as their “glue” he or she is then instructed and “coached” in it. The final step then is for this individual to come to faith, profess it and partake as a member that participate and extends the hospitality him/herself.
I say it is more gospel like because it is a recognizable pattern in the ministry of Jesus. He invited disciples to follow Him that is to live in community with him (belong). We can assume that involved for starters to do the simple tasks of life with Jesus like preparing food, getting ready for bed and joining conversations he had with people. Gradually as they were ready He taught them who He was and what his mission was all about. He also invited them to partake in His work (behave) until finally they came to a deeper understanding and professed their faith (believe)even at the price of martyr ship and death.
Most churches do not think and operate like this. We assume people who share our believe system will look us up, comply with our unique way of doing things and then be welcomed. Some do follow this script but it is usually with people from the ever-declining minority who share our denominational background from childhood.
Where do we start? By asking ourselves how we can practice radical hospitality.
Faith Presbyterian Church, Fort McMurray