Welcome! ~ Go Away

Recently, my wife planned a date night out for the two of us: dinner and then a concert featuring a jazz pianist she particularly enjoys. When the actual night arrived, we made the hour-long drive to the town where the performance was, picked up our tickets at the theatre, and then made our way to a restaurant we had noticed as we arrived into town.

Called the Copper Grill, we arrived at the restaurant doors with healthy appetites and even healthier expectations of a wonderful meal together. Waiting for us, just inside the door were two smartly dressed women - one of whom was holding a clipboard. The holder of the clipboard delivered a marvellous greeting to us, which we enthusiastically returned. Things were looking good for a nice meal and excellent service in a friendly restaurant.

Mademoiselle Clipboard then asked us our names. I replied that we did not have reservations. The other lady then looked at her co-worker and said, "This is going to happen a few times tonight." They went on to explain that the restaurant was new and not open that night. I glanced at all the people sitting at tables, enjoying themselves, and eating my food. Our greeters then told us how the night was just a practice for the staff and kitchen crew before opening for real. Only people who were friends of employees, and on their list, were being served and eating that night. I told the ladies that I didn't mind eating at the restaurant while they practiced - even if they happened to be rude to me. But no, we weren't in the in crowd and that meant no food for us. Before we left they invited us to come back next week.

As I look back on my initial feelings at being turned away from that restaurant, I can't help but think that they were similar to the feelings that many newcomers have when visiting some churches. For the most part, newcomers to churches are hungry and looking for something in their life and most of the churches they visit have people who are very good at saying, "Hello!" and greeting them.

Sadly, however, in many churches the welcome and the welcoming stop there. New people quickly find out that even though there is lots happening and being offered in the church, it is happening for, and being offered to, only those who have an inside connection to people who are already in the church. Hungry visitors to such cold and unfriendly church fortresses soon learn, with sad disappointment, that like the people in the Copper Grill the night I was there, the church they have gone to is only playing restaurant and has no intention to feed them.

Those who turn the hungry away from their churches in such a way often don't realize they are doing it. Instead they usually just huddle together and wonder aloud, "Why isn't our church growing?" Sadly none of them can see that when new people visit them they greet them by saying,   "Welcome!   Go away."

[ Pastor Tim -- from 'Sermon_Fodder' ]


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