In a post-Christian world, it’s an amazing thing when people who are far from God come to any church anywhere.

They have other things to do. They have other places to go. They have other pursuits that fill them — a thousand choices in every direction they look.

So, I want you to think about this for a moment: People who aren’t “church” people — people who didn’t grow up in a church, or who have never even thought about it, or who have actually resented or hated it — walk through the doors at Grace every week.

They overcome their fear of church or of people they don’t know or of a system they distrust or find foreign, and they bravely take the plunge, unsure of what to expect, or even if they’ll  be accepted.

It’s incredible. Truly. Maybe we’ve forgotten what a big hurdle it is for them to just show up.

So why do they do it? Why do they choose a church? Here are the top two reasons, from a major researcher:

83%: Quality of sermons

79%: Feeling welcomed

Unchurched people are very concerned about what we teach and how we teach it.

But almost the same number of people are motivated to attend again by feeling welcomed — known and cared for — by the people who attend.

In other words, we matter to people’s spiritual lives. How we treat them and whether 0r not they grow go hand in hand.

The scriptures tell us that we can’t just conform to the world around us. We have to be transformed by God’s Word and his people:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

The Apostle Paul continues later in this chapter:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality (Romans 12:9-13).

As Paul talks about not conforming to the world around us, he gives us a positive and practical picture of what that looks like. We are called to be loving, sincere, devoted, honoring, passionate, serving, joyful in hope, patient in suffering, faithful in prayer, not greedy, generous and people who practice hospitality.

I want to aspire to be this kind of Christian. I want to love others this way. What a beautiful picture of the world and of ourselves.

In fact, as we love others this way, others will see that conforming to the world around us — a world that is harsh and judgmental — is a lesser option. What if we presented a picture that was more compelling to the world than the one they’re living now? Would we see more people transformed by the grace of Jesus? I believe so.

That’s why this year at Grace, we are calling people to steward the stories of the people around them. This includes our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers. God has placed these people into our lives for a great purpose.

What does “stewarding the story”‘ mean? Two things.

First, it means that God is weaving the story of the gospel through history. We don’t own that story. It’s His. However, he has entrusted us with that story for a season. That’s what it means to be a steward—we are temporarily responsible for it.

Second, it means we get to steward the stories of others around us. We get to enter into their story for a season and help them understand the gospel message and it’s transforming power.

Though our theme for 2018-19, we are elevating our awareness that everybody has a story. Their story matters to them, and therefore it should matter to us. We are being asked by people all around us to honor their story — to treasure it and to speak into it. It’s a great privilege to be invited in. This year we will be exploring how hospitality can help us in our church and in our lives to steward the story of people who need Jesus in their lives.

Each Sunday, we give people the opportunity to write their prayer needs and submit them to our team. Here are some prayer requests of people who have walked into our doors in just the last couple of months:

  • Pray for my friend who lost his wife to suicide
  • My sister is facing a diagnosis of schizophrenia.
  • Pray for my husband not to watch porn anymore. 
  • Got my last paycheck on Friday so I really need a job. I’m a single mom.
  • Please give me the strength to quit alcohol and heal my heart.
  • My work environment is toxic with gossip and bullying.
  • Please pray for our daughter, her heart is closed to God.
  • Pray for my brother, he overdosed this past week.
  • Please pray for my marriage, my bride, and my selfish self.

This is what is going on around you on Sundays. It might be what is going on within you on Sundays.

Everybody has a story. That story has been impacted by the fall, and people are hurting. Every time somebody walks into the church or our lives, we have an opportunity for them to take their next step toward Christ — an opportunity to show them the hospitality of Christ.