how do you define feeling welcomed into a "church?" what would make you never step foot in a "church" again? how would you define feeling "invited" to a "church?" what do you think are the core realities of feeling welcomed and invited? would you feel welcomed in a "church" if you could not find it? would you feel invited to a "church" if there was no one around who could tell you where the "church" was? if you called a "church" on sunday morning, looking to go, but could not speak to a person and only heard a tape [without directions, or even address] what would you do?
last sunday i had that exact experience - i tried hard to find a local christian church, disciples of christ congregation in sacramento [it is not my style to give the exact name of the local church - besides, what happened after was even more enlightening] only to get no where - the local church had the wrong link to a map on their site, so i googled the address and got directions. after driving in the area for a while i was not able to find the church - so i did the next best thing...
first i stopped into a local store and asked for directions - the store was filled with people getting their morning stuff and no one, no one [not one person there], had ever heard of the church. facing the reality that this church was not connected to the community, i did the next thing i could think of, i called the church. now, i was "in the area" and it was about a half hour before services so i figured i would catch someone in the office and get directions - but all i got was a voice message - so i drove around some more and called again - all i got was the same voice message - so i stopped by a local church in the area and just brushed off the experience as "well, so it goes."
the more i thought about the experience the more concerned i got about the reality of how i felt, so when i got home i decided to email the regional minister for the disciples and explain my frustration and let them know that the way the church "acted" [or did not act] allowed a lack of "welcoming and inviting" to the church - i did not think the email was that bad, it just explained my view and how i felt - the response i got spoke volumes to me - because it discounted my feelings and simply gave excuses as to why the church acted as it did - i replied back and simply expressed my concern about having my experience discounted and how i felt about being given a list of excused for why the church did what it did [or did not do]. but the next email was not a reply from the regional minister, but rather from someone he asked to email me and "explain deeper." the email was rather interesting, and very condescending. she tried to make me feel as if i was the problem for feeling unwelcomed and i did not understand. again, all i got from her was the same list of reasons why the church acted as it did - and my feelings were discounted and pushed to the side.
feeling welcomed and invited:
to invite someone to my home i need to give them the address and help them find the house. if i give the wrong address, or do not give the directions, i am telling them - in a round about way - that they are not welcomed at my house. the same is true for the church. if you tell people, "come" but they have no idea how to get there - you are not saying "come" - you are saying "stay away."
now, there can be a million reasons why a church would not be welcoming or inviting but to be honest none of them are valid. let's be honest, and say straight out, that there there are no reasons for a church to be closed. we all know it, we all say it but we still give excuses for those who do it. one of the first things we need to remember is that it is not "our home" - it is a gathering of community, open to all who are seeking to know christ - what if i was a person who was not a follower, and in a quick decision decided to "go to church" - and could not find the church - would i go again? would i look at it as say, "well, looks like God did not want me to go to church."
while i am not impressed with how the church closed its doors to the community, i am less impressed with how the "leadership" of the denomination simply making excuses for the church. we, as followers, need to be open, honest and stop allowing bad behavior of leaders and churches as they ignore the reality of being open and inviting.
it is not my desire to "pick on" the "christian church, disciples of christ; i am certain other church have the same problems. but keep this in mind, the "vision" of the disciples of christ is "to be a faithful, growing church, that demonstrates true community, deep christian spirituality and a passion for justice"
yet i wonder; for me, the interesting thing is that to "demonstrate true community" means people are welcomed and invited, to have a "deep spirituality" means we are willing to be more like christ and less like others and if we have a "passion for justice" we do not ignore the feelings of others, and their realities and make excuses for the actions of others.