Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2, NIV)
Jesus our Lord was muttered against for being too welcoming and friendly towards certain people. Is anyone “muttering” or criticising our Church for being too welcoming? Hallelujah! It would be far better to be criticised for being too welcoming rather than for not being welcoming enough!
“That church welcomes too many ex-prisoners to their services. Sure, it’s good to give people a second chance, but some of them may still be out to con us, and I don’t want to risk my children seeing their tattoos and picking up bad habits. Worse! My daughter might end up dating one of them!”
“My former church started welcoming homeless people into their services. It was alright when we just gave them food during the week, but then they started inviting them into our church premises every Sunday and even some evenings??”
“Don’t get me wrong. I am glad my former church welcomes children with special needs. But the services were very distracting, and I found it hard to concentrate. I don’t know why the leaders didn’t listen to my suggestion to create a separate programme for these kids so the rest of us can worship properly.”
“Everything is too slow in that church because they go out of their way to welcome the elderly and those in wheelchairs. Serving Holy Communion takes longer; they even allow the elderly to walk in and out of the worship service whenever they need the toilet; and after the service, the toilets are always full. They do not sing more than two worship songs standing up because the pastor says we must let old people sit down and rest. No rhythm to the worship, so I changed church.”
“This church wants to welcome everybody! They are too welcoming. Next thing you know, they will be welcoming street ladies and construction workers and homosexuals and … It won’t be safe to come to church anymore!”
This issue of ON TRAC features many reflections and concrete ideas for how we can be more welcoming to those of us who are homeless, have special needs, are elderly, or are ex-prisoners, or just new and looking for fellowship. If we followed these suggestions and developed them further, who knows? We might be criticised for being far too open and welcoming.
Wouldn’t that be good?
On TRAC Together for God's Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness and Wonder
Rev Dr Gordon Wong
This article was first published in the OnTRAC 1st Issue 2015.