I was having porridge for lunch at home the other day. My wife took the (cooked) cold chicken pieces out from the fridge and said, “Just put the chicken into hot porridge and it’ll be hot enough to eat after a while. No need to microwave them.” Boom! Spiritual truth and lesson right there! A cold heart, when totally covered and submerged into a ‘hot’ loving environment has no choice but be warmed up by the love around him/her. (Told you before - my wife is wise!)
It is heart-warming to hear of the testimonies of visitors and new members of how PSPC is a warm and caring community of God during their first few encounters here. Some visitors were tourists and they wrote back to share of their good experiences during their visits, and others have stayed on and eventually made PSPC their home church. It was not too long ago that PSPC had the reputation of being a cold and unwelcoming church and I thank the Lord for how He has been transforming us and teaching us His ways.
In my (very rare) visits to other churches and from the experiences of others who have done so, there may be a few people in every church who will notice and reach out to new comers. While it is ‘better than nothing’, it is far from being a ‘hot bowl of porridge’ that will warm a cold heart. In fact, if the ushers and designated befrienders are the only ones welcoming the visitors, the hospitality will seem manufactured and insincere. If PSPC is to be a ‘hot bowl of porridge’, every member has to share the vision and take on the joyful responsibility of greeting and reaching out to any new comer.
Pastor Darryl has regularly reminded us about the 3 ‘R’s of hospitality:
- Receive: To receive visitors by welcoming and befriending them.
- Reconnect: To reconnect with the newcomers over the following weeks.
- Repeat: To repeat step 1 and 2 consistently.
Allow me to share some thoughts to encourage us to carry out the 3 ‘R’s of hospitality more consistently and perhaps, in a more prepared and intentional way.
- God honours your desire and effort. Recognise that God uses every friendly ‘hello’, every ‘welcome’ and every attempt to help the new person feel at home. It’ll make an impact for Him. God uses the smallest of gestures to let him experience the warmth of a loving Christian community and bring him a step closer to knowing Him. Nothing done for the Lord is in vain.
- Teamwork. If doing it alone is a bit scary for you, get a buddy so you can support each other. Rope others in by introducing the new comer to them. This also means that the rest of us must be in ‘ready mode’ when being introduced, i.e. don’t be stunned! “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
- Be in the moment. Making conversations with a stranger is not easy. For some of us it is quite a difficult thing and does not come naturally. Some tips that I find useful are:
- Giving full attention to the person. Be genuine.
- Stay engaged by asking questions to develop the topic of conversation.
- Use his name as often as possible to help you remember it.
- The mind needs to be actively thinking how to make the person feel at ease.
- Use humour whenever possible.
- “Look not only to your own interest, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
The 3 ‘R’s of hospitality is not meant just for visitors or new comers. There are some who are regular attenders but have yet to establish roots in the PSPC family and we need to extend the 3 ‘R’s to them too. They need the rest of us to look out for and reach out to them, to cover them in ‘hot porridge’. Let us ask the Lord to open our eyes and lead to us to them and may the Lord enable us to help them find love and acceptance.
Let us continue to pray that the Lord will break down any barriers that exist among us. The age barrier – that the young and the elderly will not be strangers to one another. And now that we have the Mandarin service, the language barrier. May the Lord help us to overcome the race and cultural barriers as we host the Mizo and Filipino services as well as the HELLO class (i.e. English class for migrant workers). And the socio-economic barriers as we reach out to people from all walks of life with very different backgrounds and upbringing.
The only way to show that we are truly a God-fearing, God-honouring church is to be obedient to what He has commanded us. “A new command I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)