by Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ~ Hebrews 13:2
A recent conversation at our Commission on Ministry meeting sparked some great thoughts about the difference between contacting and connecting – especially when it comes to building deep and lasting relationships. We talked about it in relation to our COM liaisons working with ministers and sessions, but it applies equally well – perhaps especially well – when visitors come to your church.
One of our congregations prides itself on the length of its “passing of the peace” – and in fact they’re right; when I was there it took almost 10 minutes. But then I pointed out to them that it didn’t for me, a relative stranger (even though I was there to preach). Oh, they were very kind to welcome me, but their conversations with me lasted only a few seconds compared to the depth of “check-in” they had with each other. That was a bit of a wake-up call for them, and, in fact, over the past year they’ve had several new young families join the church. I’m sure the two are completly causally related – but I’ll bet some of the reason is that they may be taking more time with strangers. Connecting, not just contact.
It’s also relevant to our mission work, and certainly to our work as churches begin to support one another. Rescue mission is a passive pass-through of donations and supplies. But empowerment mission, connectional mission, redemptive mission is when we sit down and talk to one another, when we actively share the hope and joy we have in the Word of God and the work of the Spirit in our lives. Connecting, not just contact.
Where can we all amplify our impact on the people and community around us to increase connection – which increases dialog – which increases our ability to share the good news? To enable more connectional ministry and mission? To simply love one another?
Connecting, not just contact. It’s what Jesus did in His ministry, and what He taught us God desires from us and among us.