Quite often we hear it said that we are, "Jesus hands and feet on the earth", but we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what it practically means. Whilst it is a combination of quite a lot of things, there's one particular thing that I want to draw attention to today, and that's being welcoming to others. I might go into a few other aspects of being Jesus' representatives in the following weeks, but I don't really know yet whether I'll turn this into a series or not, so watch this space!
I'll start going about this by trying to make it understandable what a difference it makes to be welcoming, so lets go from close to home. There are probably countless times that you've been to a new place/group for the first time, and often when we get there we almost feel a bit intimidated, unless we already know the people there. Try thinking back to a few of those situations, and asking yourself whether you felt welcomed or rejected. Also, did that affect you're decision to go back again? The point I'm trying to make here is that if we as Christians are not welcoming, then people a) won't like/think positively of us, and b) won't come back. Just think of the amount of people we probably lose from churches, and ultimately heaven, because they don't feel welcomed, it's quite likely a lot. (I don't know that, I'm just guessing so don't quote me on it!) We often find welcoming people quite difficult, because we're busy in our own little social circles, and we just don't want to take the time out, but it's worth it. I've recently been experiencing both ends of that in my church groups, as I'm in my last term of the years 7-9 group, but I've also just started the years 10+ group. In the first group I'm one of the oldest and probably more popular people there, so it's easy to forget about the newer people who come along. However a few weeks ago I went to the older group for the first time, and suddenly I was the youngest and least well known person there. A few people came up and started chatting, and it made me realize how important that was. Also, to bring it more obviously onto the point of representing Jesus, remember that one of his greatest attributes was welcoming people, even if they weren't in the "cool" gang at the time. (Think Zaccheas for example)
So to conclude I think that if we really want to "be Jesus hand's and feet," being welcoming to other people is one of the first and most obvious places we should start. That way we will surely bring more and more people into our churches, and we'll also have more chance of them thinking that "they want the thing that we've got." So the challenge for you is, next time you see a new person at your church or youth group, go over and make them feel welcome.