Everyone’s Welcome. Nobody’s Perfect. Anything’s Possible.
My husband and I walked into a church yesterday morning in Nashville as strangers. We had arrived awkwardly early, bumping into the people trying to leave the building after the first service ended.
I smoothed the front of my dress, wrinkled from five days in a suitcase. I tucked a stray hair behind my ear. If you were there, we were the ones who looked like reanimated corpses from The Walking Dead. We’d been awake quite a while, due to the construction crew that decided to use jackhammers outside our hotel-room window at dark o’thirty. We needed coffee and Jesus, in equal proportions and with extra caffeine, thank-you-very-much. My husband found a tall, aluminum coffee server along the back wall. He pulled back the spigot. It was empty.
“Hey, let me help you with that!” came a voice from behind us.
The man thrust out a hand. “Hi, I’m Zach.” His shirt had two words screenprinted on the front: “Everyone’s welcome.” (Apparently even the zombies.)
He shook our hands, and then disappeared for half a minute. He returned with a fresh pot of coffee, and poured us two cups.
He asked us where we were from (a farm in Iowa), what we were doing in Nashville (I had spoken at a conference), and what had drawn us to this church (we had heard about the church from others who attended).
Turns out, Zach’s job at the church isn’t Official Coffee Fetcher. Turns out, Zach is one of the pastors.
Soon, he was giving us a tour of the place – showing us the kids-ministry area, the church’s recording studio, a few of the offices.
During the tour, I got to thinking about what it means to really see people, to let them know they are welcome, to let them know they’re more than a number in a world where everything is monetized and where worth is calculated in Instagram likes, and Facebook followers, and the bottom line.
It begins by stopping everything we’re doing to let someone know they’re worth it.
And that’s what Zach was doing for us.
It all started with a cup of coffee and a little bit of conversation. In a simple gesture, we shifted from “strangers” to “seen.”
Look, we would have been just fine with quietly making our way to our seats in the auditorium. We wouldn’t have felt shunned or annoyed. People are busy.
But imagine if we were that couple who had never stepped into a church before. Or imagine that we were a couple whose marriage was hanging on by a thread. What if we were broke. What if we had just experienced great loss.
And then some guy comes along with a shirt that says, “Everyone’s welcome,” and lets you know it’s for real.
Imagine if our first encounter with Jesus, was meeting a guy like Zach.
I didn’t know Zach before. I’d never heard of him. I don’t know his story. I don’t knew if he was the kid left out at recess and vowed to be different, or if he had a mother who passed on some kind of hospitality-on-overdrive gene. All I know is that at some point in his life, he decided it was right to really see people.
Toward the end of our tour, we walked past a wall full of value statements, written up by some of the employees of the church. Someone wrote this:
“I refuse to let one person go unnoticed.”
I snapped a picture. Seeing people, it seemed, had become an ingrained part of the culture at Cross Point Church.
What if those words became ingrained in all of us?
I know we can’t be all things to all people, but together we can offer a lot of love to a lot of people. What if we began to create a culture in our families and our churches and our communities, where there was always a seat open at the table? I wonder what a difference we’d make in our world.
I want to be that kind of Christ follower. I want to be the kind of person who refuses to let one person go unnoticed. I want to be the kind of person who drops everybody to let someone know: “You are worth it.”
Two days earlier, my husband and I sat at a table with several young women recovering from eating disorders. (I had shared my message of approval idols at an eating-disorder conference in nearby Franklin, TN). There are a lot of reasons why people struggle with disordered eating, but there seemed to be a common demoninator among the women we talked to. They had missed something important when they were younger. They had felt unseen, unnoticed and unloved.
No matter if we struggle with disordered eating or disordered loves or disordered priorities, so many of us are walking around believing these three lies:
1 – Everybody else is more lovable.
2 – I have nothing to offer.
3 – I’m not like them.
When we go first, and let others know they’ve been seen, our actions speak this message:
1 – You are lovable.
2 – Your life has value.
3 – You are one of us.
Letting people know they matter to Jesus begins to letting them know they matter to us.
That’s what Jesus did. Jesus refused to let one person go unnoticed. He went after the one.
“Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’” (Luke 15:4-6)
I did a little research on Cross Point Church after we got home.
The church’s motto is this:
“Everyone’s welcome. Nobody’s perfect. Anything’s possible.”
Turns out, Cross Point Church is one of the fastest-growing churches in America. I suspect that a lot of that has to do with some great programming, stirring worship, and solid preaching from the lead pastors.
But no one will hear the Good News unless they first felt welcomed enough to take a seat.
My husband and I left church Sunday morning feeling lighter than when we came. We heard a great message, and were inspired to live life a little differently than we did before.
But the Gospel message started an hour before the preacher took the microphone. It happened at the front doors of a church, when some dude in a T-shirt met two strangers at the door, because he refused to let them go unnoticed.
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Oh, thank you Jesus….we all want so much to be seen and heard and valued. What a precious time, Jennifer.
It was lovely, Jody. I met someone you know at the conference — a writer you know from Oregon!
Yes you did… The gifted Michelle Watson. So glad you connected.
I love it when big places like that live out what they value (and when they value such simple, beautiful things). I’m glad you were seen, you were valued, you were invited to be one of them that day.
I’m glad we were seen, too. It was very kind, but even more, it was cool to know what a difference it had made in the people who walk through those doors every Sunday morning. I love their three-part mission statement, but it doesn’t work very well if #1 doesn’t happen first.
We received a similar welcome yesterday at a new church, Jennifer. In the midst of all the nay-saying these days, how good to know that the Body of Christ is alive and welcoming … and busy loving well!
What a beautiful example of how easy it actually is to let others know they are seen. To actually see them. Pause. Ask questions. Extend. Respond. I love that t-shirt and I love that sign. That’s the kind of life I want to live, too. Thank you for passing on the sweet insight and encouragement God showed you through a Zach.
There were a lot of greeters at the door, and I saw so many of them in genuine, heartfelt interaction with people. It was refreshing.
Jennifer, this post speaks my language. 🙂
I just singed up for your blog yesterday, and then here this afternoon, I get a post that is similar in tone to one that I published this morning too. This theme has been heavy on my heart for a while, and I really think that it is a message that God is trying to push forward right now. So many articles written about this in the last week or two, and every single one of them a unique experience that God has used to set fire to this topic. Apparently it’s a topic that is especially on His heart right now too. 🙂
Thanks for sharing. Look forward to getting to know.
~ Best to you ~
Thank you for signing up to read my blog posts, Brenda. I hope they serve your beautiful heart!
So glad you were with us yesterday. What a great post that captures the heart of Cross Point!
Justin, We really appreciated your message and wish you, Trisha and your whole family well on your new adventure in Indiana.
Oh, amen and amen, Jennifer, to Cross Point Church and to all those like it whose love exudes that of Jesus Himself. I pray all our churches would be so welcoming with open hearts and minds! How the world could change in light of God’s true love!
Agreed. I hope for this for churches, but also for all of us in community, beyond the church doors. Thanks for reading along, Martha.
I am so sad that I missed seeing your in person, Ro, after all these years. I didn’t realize you lived so close.
I’m so glad you had a great experience! Zach is one special person, thank you for visiting us this weekend!
Do you attend Cross Point, Randy? What an amazing church. We had a fantastic experience. The Holy Spirit is ON. THE. MOVE. there.
I felt so uplifted by your message of welcoming others, noticing them and then introducing them to our best Friend, Jesus. For many years, I felt as if invisible, a person of nondescript appearance, hoping to find someone who would notice me. Since I’ve been in the Church, I’ve found that I am of value and worth to the Lord and He wants to work within me through others and His Word. Thank you for writing your experience of being accepted and welcomed in this encounter with a person who cared and noticed you.
I’m so glad these words served your heart, Kathy.
Thank you for writing this, Jennifer! I love your perspective! Thank you for seeing me! I still struggle with so much insecurity – feeling unloved and not valuable. I ask God to just take me to the other side already, but I am learning along the way. When we’re insecure, it’s hard to see beyond ourself. I want to be secure in God’s love so I can really see others and love them.
Paula, Since I know you in person, and not just online, I can say for a fact that you really do see others beyond yourself. Remember how you saw me, and encouraged me, as we were leaving lunch in Franklin on Friday afternoon, when I was so nervous about my talk? You do this — you see others. You really do. I am so glad God crossed our paths.
You’re right, Jennifer! I think with all the negative messages I’ve heard, in church and out, I’ve internalized that I am bad and can’t love right, and whatever love and goodness I have, it’s never enough – God is never pleased. But, now I know that’s not true! My heart is to love and be loved and however that plays out is really enough. God IS pleased with me! I am so thankful for you, my friend!
Thank you, Jennifer, for this touching reminder to always be a welcoming, winsome person wherever we go, but especially at church. To “stop everything and let someone know she’s worth our time” is the way to love like Jesus. I don’t want to miss an opportunity!
So true…you illustrated the power of being seen and also what can happen when one feels unseen, especially at a vulnerable stage, like childhood….Thanks for the reminder 🙂
Oh my goodness! I LOVE that church’s motto! Definitely one to aspire to, isn’t it? I truly hope I notice people ~ especially those who are sitting alone, new, or just look like they need a friend. I think I’ll tape your picture to my fridge as a reminder. <3
And…next time we're in Nashville, we'll make a point of visiting Cross Point Church!
I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I always thought church should focus on the worship of God, not on the feelings of man. Too many churches today seem like they have to feed people breakfast, give them Starbucks coffee, have bands and plays to entertain the people just to get them to church. Worship and God seems to increasingly become an afterthought. No one talks about sin and how it separates us from God. They don’t want to call out people’s sins because, God-forbid, we talk about things that would make them uncomfortable and maybe not come back. We even see churches embrace homosexual marriage now and all sorts of sins forbidden by God. We accept it now because, “well it’s love and God wants us to love.” OK, people LOVE to sin but because it is LOVE doesn’t mean it is what God wants us to do. But I digress. The real issue is that the more we focus on people and individuals instead of God, the more church attendance all across the country goes down. People who have to be fed and entertained have very weak faith in my opinion. It’s great to make people feel welcomed, but it is NOT about YOU and how YOU feel, it’s about God and worshipping Him and focus on how HE feels about our following HIM.
You have to get the people in the door, before you change lives. You have to satisfy the physical need, whether it be hunger, frustration, etc before they even began to focus on God. The people who have to be fed and entertained may have weak faith, but our prayer should be that while they are visiting that their mind is a little clearer to receive the Word. They may feel a freer to worship if we (the church) eliminate the distractions.
If you ignore the need, you ignore another soul that could have possibly been helped because you don’t want to give a handout. Really? You can’t tell people you have heart, show them.