Did you ever play that hand game, when you were little, "Here is the church, here is the steeple"? It says open the doors and see all the people. It never talked about what kind of people, I always assumed it was all kinds of people. I grew up in churches that welcomed all kinds of people, even the janitor with the naked lady tattooed on his arm. Guest preachers of all races, gender, class etc were welcome. Catholic priests could give a message as well as my protestant dad. I guess the rhyme does say open the doors and see all the people, it's doesn't say open the doors and walk right in. It seems today that there are some conditions to be met before you might be allowed in. Sadly there is a perception by many outside of the church that the rhyme is more like, "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and let in the right kind of people".
I have a scandalous secret for you. It may rock your world, it might even shake your faith. Here it is, every Sunday there are people different from you sitting in your church and I think God himself would welcome them there. You know what, there are sinners sitting in church too. Really, I know it's scandalous but there are. Your pastor he or she is a sinner. Yep, sorry to burst your bubble, your spiritual guide is not perfect. Guess what, you sin too. Yes that's right and so do I. None of us is perfect. We all hurt people in different ways, we each have our own level's of apathy, we don't always do the right thing and we are allowed into church every Sunday. We are allowed to come to worship God, and be a part of a fellowship of believers. Regardless of our choices in life, of how we were born, of our socioeconomic class, race, etc. no matter what our faith even, we are allowed and should be welcomed into the church. This is why I am still smoldering with anger about the many stories in the news this week, about churches considering banning Boy Scouts from their buildings. I am not a big Boy Scout cheerleader, far from it, I am secretly hoping to never have to dress my son up in a scout uniform. That's just because our family can't handle one more commitment and the thought of being a den mother makes my skin crawl. It has nothing to do with how I feel about their moral compass. Churches this week, all across the country are talking about kicking out the scouts because they lifted a ban on gay kids. These churches are even considering starting their own scouting programs.
This denying groups of people admittance into your church seems to go against everything I know about Jesus, and everything I have come to love about the church. I am not going to get into whether or not homosexuality is a sin, in this post, or any other. I hate that argument and I hate that it has come to define so much of Christianity. What I think is deplorable about this whole thing, is that churches would think they have the right to keep anybody out, because of their perceived "sin". Jesus came to this earth and hung out with EVERYONE, and he talked about the fact that all of us have issues. He didn't let people's issues get in the way of his love for them. He hung out with those that were regarded as the worst, the misfits, the outcasts. If he had issues with a person's behavior he worked that out with them quietly as he spoke love into their life. He accepted them first, reached across cultural lines to make them feel welcome in his presence. He scared off those that were going to cast the first stone. It was the religious leaders that he publicly chastised, and the salesmen commissioned by the leaders that he ran out of the temple.
You don't endorse someone's choices or behaviors by letting them into your church. You don't get to decide who can come and who can't. We are the body of Christ. He is the head, the boss. So let's harken back to the 90s, really look at the gospels and think about WWJD. It doesn't matter what people are doing, whether it's sin or not, if they are repentant or not, they can be there, Jesus loves them.
Admittedly, I'm just a youth pastor, or actually Director of youth ministries, some people get upset when the term pastor is used to describe me, even though it's the easiest way to communicate what I do, and most resembles the duties I perform. All I have though is a bachelor's in Bible, Theology and Youth Ministry, and 17+ years of experience working in churches, and faith that goes back as far as I can remember. I am not ordained, I do not have an expensive seminary degree, or a PHD, I haven't published any books or pastored a big church. So you can judge for yourself how qualified or not, I am to make these statements, you can discount my opinion, you can cast me as naive. That's fine. I used to get easily offended by that, but I won't anymore, because I have seen far too many people with far bigger qualifications than mine, make horrible, misleading statements about the Gospel. I have heard people with "certifiable authority" say things in the name of Christianity that sound nothing like the Jesus I know.
If those experts are right, if Jesus is exclusive, and discriminating towards certain "sins" or certain kinds of people,if he isn't full of grace for all, if his love isn't bigger than anything I can muster then I would rather be wrong. I would rather live in my ignorance. I would rather go to hell myself, than be with a God that would deny kids entrance into his church because they are gay.
And one more thing, I may not like what these people are doing, I may not agree with their views, but I still have to welcome them into my church, to my table. So if you disagree, if you take offense, let's get some coffee together, let's share a meal. We may or may not enjoy it, but at least we will be working at trying to be like Christ and isn't that what being a Christian is all about?