I mean specifically visitors who come to see you as a one off not people who are looking to join you. I’m also not talking here about people popping in whilst on holiday or church tourists having a break from their own church. Rather, I mean specifically where someone has intentionally come to spend some planned time with you in order that you can learn from each other.
We’ve just had a visit from some church leaders over from the States. Okay, hands up, we were a little nervous before they came:
– Would they like us …and would we like them? Or would there be a massive culture clash?
– Was it going to be a bit like an OFSTED visit (for non UK readers, OFSTED is the Schools inspectorate).
Well in answer to the first question, we got along well. We had a lovely time and there was a real sense of unity in the gospel and being part of God’s family together. That’s the first benefit of having visitors and also of going and visiting others. We realise that we are part of a wider, worldwide family of God’s people.
In answer to the second question, no, it wasn’t an OFSTED visit. They didn’t turn up with clipboards, they didn’t interrogate us. They didn’t score us against a 5-point grading system. However, I have to admit, that there were points in the week that felt painful.
You see, here is the second benefit of having visitors. They had fresh eyes on the situation. They saw things from a different perspective and that means they saw things that we don’t see, or maybe have got used to seeing. This worked all the way through from seemingly big things like why we do certain ministries, how we lead services and the content of our messages down to seemingly small things that to us seem unimportant but may well be a distraction to someone coming in for the first time.
The best thing they did for us was to keep pushing us back to the “Why” question. “Why do you do what you do?” What’s the goal or mission. Are the things we do serving the Gospel?
Because it wasn’t an inspection but a visit from other family members, they didn’t just ask us questions. We got to ask them about what their context is like, what challenges they face, how they do what they do. We learnt from how they do things in their context. Hopefully they learnt from us too!