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
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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