What if You Weren’t Welcome in Church?

February 1, 2010

You probably go a really loving, welcoming, friendly church.

Churches typically like to say they’re “friendly” as a selling point.  They might even put on their sign “Come as you are.”  It’s supposed to mean that church is a safe place for everyone.  Anyone can find acceptance and belonging in church.

But you and I both know that’s baloney.

Not just anyone can find love and acceptance in any church.  I’ve heard stories from personal friends who’ve felt unwelcome at church.  I just read a story of a male prostitute who was run out of church by the other men.  Ghandi was run out of church.  Not everyone we invite to church can be John Mayer, or someone who would totally amp up the awesome factor of our church.  Sure, we want everyone to go to church.  There’s just some people a lot of Christians would rather see go to someone else’s church.

If we’re being honest, part of us likes our churches the way they are, and doesn’t want anyone messing them up.  We’ve seen people we know we should “witness” to.  But then a little voice tells us that maybe our church isn’t the church God wants them to join.  Maybe they’d be more comfortable with other people.  I’ve talked to pastors who’ve been brave enough to be honest and admit that little voice exists.

If you had a lineup of people you could bring to church, who would actually be accepted by your church?  Forget trying to “fix” anyone, or change anyone’s habits or opinions or lifestyle.  Pretend that these people will never change their ways or become less unusual or sinful, but they’ll come to church for years, seeking God, and possibly offending everyone the whole time.  Who would really be able to join your church?

A flamboyant homosexual man or woman
A flamboyant homosexual couple
A flamboyant homosexual couple with an adopted child
An abortion doctor
A man with really bad body odor
A woman with a completely irritating personality
A guy who always dresses up like Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”
A Christian who exercises her gift of speaking in tongues.  Loudly. 
A schitzophrenic who dresses as a police officer
A wealthy CEO in a power suit
A registered sex offender
A guy whose humor begins and ends with knock-knock jokes
A pre-op transsexual
A post-op transsexual
A Christian who worships through interpretive dance
This totally annoying hipster chick
An ardent and vocal communist
A porn star
A gang member
A Middle-Eastern radical Muslim
A guy covered in tattoos of demons
Pat Robertson
A stoner
A “psychic,” or “mystic”
A prostitute

Wow, there’s a lot of people with sex related barriers to church on that list.  Some churches don’t even like people to show up in jeans.

How would your church score?  I think there’s a church for everyone to not be welcomed to.  I bet I could find a church I wouldn’t be welcome at.

Some of you may be thinking that those people should have to clean up their act pretty quickly if they planned on sticking around your church.  Sure, as quickly as I can point out that Jesus didn’t condemn the adulteress, you’ll point out that he also told her to “sin no more.” 

But what if she did go on sinning?  What if that porn star took ten years to be convicted by God, get baptized and leave porn?  What if she needed forgiveness every week?  Would we be able to tolerate her?  What about the people who aren’t “sinning” but are just being “annoying?”

Some of you think you attend really “accepting” churches who would welcome anyone off the streets.  Well, what about Pat Robertson?  Sure, your church may love the GLBT crowd, but would your church be able to stand Pat?  Some of your churches are full of punks and “misfits.”  Would that CEO in the power suit be able to make the cut for those churches?  What about the Christians who just happen to be really different from you?  It’s a beautiful thing when different people can worship God in harmony.  It just doesn’t happen often.

So be honest.  Who might not make the cut in your church?  Where have you seen the people of your church draw the line when it came to loving people?  Are you one of those people who churches have failed to welcome?

One response to What if You Weren’t Welcome in Church?

  1. I am employed at a church where we have a registered sex offender as a member. We also have several others mentioned on your list. They either fit in and stay, or don’t fit in and move on. We are a church full of sinners in need of redemption.
    I have had a problem recently with regard to the safety of children in the congregation. Background checks aren’t enough – a 12 yr old was physically assaulted by a 32 yr old man with developmental disabilities. He does not acknowledge that he did anything wrong and is angry about the accusations. I have worked hard to make this man welcome in our church for years now, but now I feel as though I can no longer nurture this relationship and give the child peace of mind to safely come to church without fear of this man hurting her again. I am in constant prayer over this. The sr. pastor is counseling the man, and I keep the girl close, but how can this go on? he is not contrite and she is still in fear.