Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
-Jesus (Mt. 11:28-30)
Almost every church I've been in (Covenant included) has had something like this message as a part of its advertising. We post it on signs and websites. But if "everyone" showed up, would they find it to be true?
I believe we want this to be true, but our tendency is to only perceive the world from my perspective. I am a white, able-bodied, married with kids, male who has been raised in the church and knows the "lingo." I may feel welcome. But I'm not "everyone."
What about the man in a wheelchair who shows up to find no proper ramp up to the building, who has to wait for front door to be opened for him, and can't properly get downstairs when we hold a meal?
What about the single mom of a daughter with severe ADHD who is at the end her rope and would love just one hour of reprieve during a worship gathering?
What about the forty-year-old man who just had split from his wife because he just told her the secret he has been hiding whole life and found the secrecy was destroying him and his entire family? He is gay. And now he is walking into a church desperately seeking the love of Jesus, but fully expecting judgment from people who say they follow him.
What about the woman who deeply loves God, but is terrified of church and church people because of how they used her and all of her savings to build a fancy new building and then ignored her when she lost her job and her family due to an addiction?
I know that people may come in with baggage that can lead them to not feel welcome no matter what we do. But that isn't an excuse to not do whatever we can to welcome everyone - if we indeed believe that everyone is welcome. Do you believe it?
Welcoming everyone is different from appealing to everyone's desires. We can't do everyone's favourite music every week. Effective sermons - even encouraging ones - will, at times, be used by God to convict us and that isn't comfortable. No speaker is going to be everyone's ideal presenter. A part of being in community together is learning to live in relationship with people who may be hard for you or me to like.
Jesus' welcome was and is extended to everyone - regardless of the complexities that come with it working itself out in real life. For those who believe that, a good starting place will be for us to consider how we - you and I - can do our individual part in extending that welcome and rest to "all who are weary and burdened."
In reading this, did something come to mind about Covenant that you feel hinders us welcoming everyone? Feel free to share it and a possible solution with us at [email protected] Please use the following format to help share both the concern and your possible solution.
I notice . . . (and then write the "non-welcoming" concern you notice to be true). I'd prefer . . . (and then offer a potential "welcoming" solution).