Or do they? Do we? There are a lot of good church people out there who are sabotaging our ministry as people who model our lives after Jesus.
For example, try this simple test if real life scenarios:
Situation #1: A church in a major city is located along the path of a large, long-planned citizen protest against what they consider to be corporate abuse. The protest is to occur on a Sunday morning just as the church gathers for worship. Does the church:
a. Cancel worship because traffic will prevent the members to get to their church building, and they don’t want protesters coming into their building?
b. Increase the insurance on their church building in case the protesters are unruly and damage their building as they march by?
c. Serve water bottles and coffee along the parade route, while inviting protesters to come in for prayer, to use the restrooms, to rest in the sanctuary.
Situation #2: During coffee time after worship, a group of middle school boys from the neighborhood shows up asking if they can use the church gym for 30 minutes. Does the Elder of the Day:
a. Answer a quick, “No” adding “And that’s that” ?
b. Remind the boys that they are not welcomed there. They aren’t even members and neither are their parents.
c. Offer to chaparone their game for 30 minutes while coffee hour is being cleared up?
Situation #3: A parishioner is in the hospital for a holiday weekend and the pastor takes communion into his room, to be in solidarity with the congregation which celebrated communion that morning in worship. The parishioner shares a room with another patient who is lying awake in the next bed. The pastor offers communion to her parishioner and then asks the other patient if he would like communion as well.
a. The parishioner explains to the pastor that “We wouldn’t want to embarrass Mr. X by assuming he would want communion.”
b. The parishioner signals to the pastor that she’s his pastor. “Please do not disturb him,” the parishioner says to his pastor. “You’re here for me, right?”
c. The parishioner introduces his roommate to his pastor and invites the roommate to share communion with them, if he wishes.
I would love to tell you that hospitality won out in all these stories, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t mean to offend the church people I love, but we are all guilty of being unwelcoming, unloving, judgmental souls. And eventually, this will kill the institutional church as we know it.
Every day God presents us with people to include, welcome, and serve. But more times than not, we miss this completely. And we wonder why our faith communities are not growing.