We finished a Caribbean cruise.
I love jumping on a ship and traveling to places I have already been. Looking out over the Gulf, I have a sense of the majesty and awe of God. It is a transcendent moment of praise for me. If you have never been on a cruise, let me tell you a secret. The day you get on the cruise ship you are treated like a king or queen. You are greeted with a smile. Within minutes of arriving on the ship, someone with a specialty departure drink will descend upon you. They will call you by name and ask how they can serve you. You will meet your cabin steward who takes care of you and your room. This person pays so much attention to you; they know when you are on deck and when you eat. It would be spooky were it not happening on a ship. You feel welcomed and at home.
The day the cruise is over you are treated like bloated bovine. Wall length flak jackets are hung in the elevators. They are protecting their shiny walls from departing passengers and their luggage trying to get off that ship and back into our cars quickly. Our luggage was loaded on the ship, but we are responsible for toting it off the ship. The cruise personnel no longer smile and greet you. They point. They point to the place where you pay up for all those fruity drinks. They point to the place where you wait to have your herd number called to leave the ship. They point you to the door and don’t even wave when you leave their ship. It is certainly a contrast from the day you got on their ship. They need to get departures off to welcome the next batch of guests.
I love it.
We cruise because there is no cell service in the middle of the Gulf. In truth there is, but I am too cheap to pay for it. My phone can’t ring. There is no one knocking on the door wanting a vote or to sell lawn service. In the middle of the Gulf there is peace and quiet.
The contrast between welcoming cruise guests and pointing the way off their ship is instructive.
I knew a couple who visited a church for five years before they joined. When queried they explained they liked the attention they received as guests. They didn’t want to be treated like “just members.” I know what they are talking about. We schmooze guests in a quest to have them join our church (your church too!). We offer Tupperware, a three percent tithe, eight commandments and three free sins to promote church membership. Once they join, we welcome them and make them get to work in the kingdom of God. From the outside it looks like bait and switch or vaguely like the cruise ship dynamic. We are working on treating everyone like they are coming to church for the very first time. (You Methodists out there, did you get the subtle hint?)
For the church folks reading this, Jesus told us to “welcome the stranger.” There might be someone in your church Sunday who has never been in church before. In Jesus name welcome them.
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