Vol. 19 No. 36 | September 10, 2017
I have recently seen several church signs that say, “Everyone is welcome.” Maybe they have been there all along, but in light of current events, these signs seem to convey a more important message.
But my question is, ‘Why is it necessary for churches to say everyone is welcome’?
Every church sign I have seen carrying this message bears in some way the name of God, or Christ, or Jesus. But shouldn’t this go without saying? If the saints of God, Christians, and followers of Jesus are gathering, would it not be expected that everyone is welcome? But this doesn’t seem to always be the case
I remember a time when I invited a friend of mine with darker skin to attend a worship assembly in our congregation. I was promptly informed, “His church is up the road.”
I can also recall a friend telling me once about visiting what she called an ‘Awe shucks!’ church. The attitude she sensed when she walked through the doors was, ‘Awe shucks, we have visitors today’.
I hear about churches that make it very clear that if you had been married, divorced and remarried, you are welcome to attend, you just can’t do anything in the way of public service.
And then there are the church leaders who tell our youth ‘we’ need them; we need their energy, their spirit, and their ideas on worship. But when they try to inject the rest of the assembly with their energy, spirit, and ideas on worship, they are quickly shut down.
Sadly, these are not just preacher stories, except for the fact that I, a preacher, am telling them. I truly thought we were beyond these acts of intolerance, prejudice, and exclusion.
But I refuse to lose hope and choose to focus instead on the following demonstrations of tolerance and love for everyone, regardless of their age, skin color, sexual preference or place of origin.
As the children flocked in the streets to follow Jesus and were being shooed away by His disciples, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.”
As demonstrated in the Gospels, Jesus reached out and touched, healed, loved, and taught everyone who came to Him, despite the fact that other religious leaders condemned his style of ministry as flawed.
When Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When Jesus proclaimed, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
When a boy strayed from his family, squandering all of the wealth of his inheritance, yet was still greeted with open arms by his father upon his return home.
I think of those who were forced to flee the rising waters of the Texas coast a couple of weeks ago, and of those who are fleeing the winds and rain of Hurricane Irma right now. I can only imagine that they are a desperately seeking a place of refuge where the doors are open and they are welcomed with open arms, regardless of their skin color, sexual preference, ethnic background or social status.
I think of them, of the devastation they have suffered, and all I can do is hope that if you have a sign in front of your church that says, “Everyone is Welcome”, you mean it. Or better yet, I hope that these signs will soon be unnecessary, that we will all work to come from a place of love, kindness, non-judgment, and acceptance.
Let us become those churches, ones governed so completely by the law of love, that people just know:
This church is a place of God, and everyone is welcome.
A Norvell Note © Copyright 2017 Tom Norvell All Rights Reserved