I know it's not new, but I had never heard it put this way.

In a recent consulting session with a church staff someone said they had read that church life had shifted from "Believing, Behaving, Belonging" to "Belonging, Behaving, Believing".  

Now, like most bumper stickers, this may be an overstatement.  But, it resonates with my experience.

There was a day that it seemed that churches were more interested in doctrinal purity than they were in welcoming the stranger.  The church seemed to require some ascent to an agreed upon creed.  It seemed to follow that if we believed certain things, our behavior would follow from that belief.  If you believed rightly, and behaved rightly, you could belong to the group.

But, many people doubt that right belief is the forrunner to right behavior.  Some of us now assume that it is the relationships of love that shape our behavior.  The groups to which we belong call forth certain practices and behavior.  If we love people in a group and participate with them, our actions are formed by that love.  It then follows that our actions eventually lead us to articulate what we believe about life.

If belonging preceeds behavior and belief, I suspect the church that practices hospitality to strangers may be in a good position to grow.  At least, it might be the kind of place people will take a second look at.