This may seem like an odd question to ask. I’m sure for many, the response would be, “Of course!” After all, who would want to join a church that didn’t welcome them?
The problem with being a welcoming church has as much to do with how we treat ourselves as it does how we treat others. When I hear people speak about being a welcoming church, or read materials on the subject, it is immediately clear that the underlying assumption is that the church is a commercial enterprise. You welcome church visitors the same way you welcome customers: study your area demographics, figure out what they want, mold your product to fit the customer’s wants, and deliver. This is the model developed by Willow Creek. It is also the model that after years of study proved to be false and ineffective by the very people who created it.
Thinking of being “welcoming” portrays neither the church community nor the visitors in a positive light. The church is a product, and visitors are the mindless, faceless people with demands to be wooed. If this is what it means to be welcoming, then no, the Church should not be welcoming.
If, instead, we are open and honest about what the Church is and who we are, we can be welcoming in more, honest ways. Becoming part of a faith community requires commitment. It is a commitment shared by the entire community, together. A faith community does not offer what people “want”, as if we as human beings had any idea if what we want is actually good or what we need. A faith community is not a club with membership perks and privileges (and we as the Church desperately need to get ourselves out of this mindset).
So yes, the Church should be welcoming. But it should welcome people to be a part of the community. It should welcome them to share in the joys and the trials of being disciples. It should welcome them to something greater than themselves. It should welcome them to the history that brought this particular community to the present. It should welcome them to a new way of living, thinking, and being–none of which is accomplished by programs, classes, coffee mugs, pamphlets, knickknacks or advertisements.
7 thoughts on “Should Church Be Welcoming?”
My church has always been welcoming. It is just since the ELCA statement on GLBT in 2009 has made welcoming trendy.
I disagree. The church growth movement has existed since at least 1965. I mentioned Willow Creek in this post, considered one of the more famous members of the “church growth” movement, the ultra-welcoming church philosophy, and it was started in 1975. This has been an issue not for four years, but four decades, and it crosses all denominational lines.
Your last paragraph is exactly what I believe God is trying to tell his people. I have been thinking this for such a long time and speaking it on my blog. Try tell that to the church and they can’t imagine no food, fall festivals or programs for the quilters. I, like you grew up in the church too but didn’t know Jesus until I started on my own spending time alone with him, reading his word and praying every day. Most of what I know now, I didn’t learn in church and that makes me sad so I can imagine how God feels!
This is a really good question to be asking, and here is a really excellent blog post about the idea of being a welcoming church (which maintains that we shouldn’t be welcoming churches, but rather inviting churches). http://daelcarev.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/we-will-no-longer-be-a-welcoming-church/
I feel like I’ve seen that post before. I liked it, for the most part.
IS THE CHURCH JESUS BUILT AN ECUMENICAL ASSEMBLY?
Ecumenical defined: Christian unity aimed at achieving universal Christian unity through interdenominational organizations.
Jesus prayed for unity. (John 17:20-21 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they may all be one, as You Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.)(NKJV)
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement.(NKJV)
Here listed are some of the denominations and churches who are involved in the ecumenical assemblies. Wesleyan churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans, The Salvation Army, United Church of Christ, Independent Christian Churches, Methodists, Presbyterian Churches, Baptists, Pentecostal Churches, and Quakers, to name just a few.
These churches do not speak the same thing. They teach different ways to become saved. They teach conflicting doctrines about how to remain saved. They do not agree on how to have sins forgiven. They declare various and sundry terms for pardon from sin. They differ on the essential doctrines of Christianity.
To refer to these associations as ecumenical give misnomer a bad name. How can the different churches cooperate in charitable causes? How they join together in Bible study and worship? There can only be true unity in the truth found in Scripture. God did not create nor approve of different doctrines for thousands of denominations and church groups.
The true ecumenical church is the one founded on the Day of Pentecost 33 AD. The statement of faith is the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus died for one church, His church.
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Thank you for commenting. You are right, churches involved in ecumenical movements teach different doctrines. They are under no illusion that they are actually in unity. The ecumenical movement does not proclaim an already-existing unity, it works to achieve that unity it has not yet realized.
What that unity could look like in the future is known only by the Holy Spirit. Some think it will be a return to the pre-1100’s unity (or pre-451 unity, or pre-431 unity) of one institutional church. Others think it will be a network of churches all professing the essentials in unity and working together. Still others think it will be a new way of being and doing church altogether.