Last month I experienced IKEA for the first time. For those who have never visited the Swedish home store, words fail me. However, my counselor says I’m slowly recovering from the traumatic event . . . traumatic event . . . traumatic event.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon along with half of the metro-Atlanta population. Imagine funneling into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Falcons home opener—only more so. Sniveling children and whining husbands reluctantly trailed scolding mothers and weary wives.
The IKEA employees wore canary yellow shirts which should have made them easy to spot. However, they disappeared chameleon-like into the background, reappearing at the high dollar design centers and crowded checkout counters.
After losing my wife to the mob, I asked a harried worker for directions to the Fabrics Department. He gestured vaguely and said, “Follow the signs around the perimeter of the store, or you can take a shortcut through the unmarked door in Seasonals.”
Then he dashed away like Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit, muttering: “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date!”
By the time we reached the checkout counters, I had lost the remnants of both sanity and religion. My right eye twitched uncontrollably as I contemplated a mad dash towards the exit. An eternity later we finally reached the front of the line.
The young cashier greeted us with a dazzling smile and asked about our IKEA experience. I babbled an unintelligible response, and she seemed to understand. Then she engaged in a winsome conversation with my wife, including a charming story about her father who had immigrated to the United States.
She finished the transaction with another genuine smile, adding: “Come back soon.” I found myself nodding agreeably even as the cashier warmly greeted the next customer.
If the Large Church is like IKEA, then it’s the members’ responsibility to welcome first time guests. When a visitor says, “This sure is a friendly church,” does it mean that several hundred people overwhelmed the person with a flash-mob-welcome? No, it means that a few people greeted the newcomer as an honored guest.
Radical hospitality begins with each individual believer. One person can make an eternal difference.
Be the one.