At the new pastor’s first day in the parish, he arranged for a visitor to be at the church. He asked a friend, unknown to the people, to dress as a homeless person and come to service. The church was largely older folks, senior citizens and the new pastor would use this as a teaching moment. He figured, old people tend to be closed-minded, rigid, and less receptive to people unlike themselves. He would use their failure to welcome this guest as a way of showing them how different things would be from now on. Under his watch the church would grow by welcoming those who were different or stood out.
The pastor watched in the church foyer as his secret guest entered the building. Within moments, the older women of the church had surrounded this man asking where he was from and how long he had been in the area and was he looking for a church. After plying him with coffee and cookies they brought him to the sanctuary even as they fussed over which of them would get to sit with him. Finally, getting him settled smack in the middle of all of them, they sat together through the service beaming that God had been so good to give them a guest to welcome.
After service, they were disappointed that their guest declined their invitations to stay for lunch and quickly left the building. The group lamented that their guest had not signed the guest book. They had no way to reach out to this man. They continued to hope he would return. The pastor never mentioned the visitor. It was only over time that word trickled out the guest had been there as a test by their new pastor.