Throughout the first several weeks at North Main, I’d seen many first-time guests. At first, I thought Ray was just another guest, but I was quickly reminded that there is no such thing as ‘just another guest.’
Ray sat in the back row at Gateway’s North Main campus. Before the service began, I greeted Ray but didn’t have long to talk then. After the service, Ray came up to me in the cafe. He said, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to church. This is amazing!” I responded, “What do you mean?” Ray continued, “I used to go to a charismatic church years ago, but I haven’t been to church for quite a while. The way you go out into the neighborhoods, it shows that you really care.”
I thanked Ray for his kind words and explained that going out into the neighborhood is just part of living out our mission as a church.
It was here that Ray’s words hit my heart.
Ray said, “I live in the neighborhood, just a couple doors down. There are a lot of people here in this community, including me, who’ve felt as if nobody cares about us. That we’re just overlooked in the community. By going out into the neighborhood, by investing in this church, by teaching the Bible for what it says, and by the way you worship with passion...you guys are the real deal. You actually care for this community and people like me.” Ray continued to tell me that he would be back next week, as the woman he lives with was filling out a card to join a Life Group.
It took a few moments for the gravity of his words to sink in, but when they did, I was overwhelmed with joy for what God is doing at Gateway and that God has invited us, as a church, to be a part of it. It’s extremely humbling to know that the one true God, Creator of the universe, would ask people like you and me to be part of His incredible mission to connect people to Jesus Christ and to one another.
As I mentioned in the beginning, this interaction with Ray reminded me that there is no such thing as ‘just another guest.’ After a while, sometimes we begin to find inviting and greeting guests as somewhat routine. This is the point at which we must ask God to remind us that everyone at Gateway and in our community is not ‘just another guest.’ They’re people--like you and me--with real lives, real stories, real feelings, real problems, and a real need for a Savior. They’re significant. They’re worth our time, investment, and care.
Gateway Church Family, let’s continue to be the church by going outside of our own doors to invest in and care for others. You may be surprised to see what God does.