Date Published: 08 / 16 / 2022 |
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak,
and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good,
to build him up. For Christ did not please himself.”
- The Apostle Paul in Romans 15:1-3
What does it mean to be an "All Souls" Church?
In this passage, we see it means “to bear with the failings of the weak, (think: oversensitive, immature, baby Christian, sick, elderly, unbelievers, homeless folks, the desperately poor, visitors, outsiders) and not to please ourselves.”
To put the question another way,
What would it feel like to be a “some souls church?”
Most of us at some point have visited or attended a “some souls'' church and have felt we were not wanted or welcomed. I have been to churches where people are completely indifferent to my presence. I attended a Reformed Baptist church once where I knew the pastor well and was not talked to or greeted by anyone. I even wandered around looking lost and attempted to make eye contact with people, but had no response. I finally asked the guy running the book table where the restroom was and he pointed in a direction and said, “over there,” in an annoyed tone. I saw the pastor from across the sanctuary and even though we were friends, he just gave me a little nod and looked away as if he didn't want to be bothered. I attended the service and to be honest found it hard to engage in the singing and preaching. I felt like I was an outsider there.
On another occasion, I attended a young “hip” church in a major city and found quickly that there was a dress code. Not suits, ties and dresses, but instead cutting edge fashion. There were no old folks (except for a 50 something pastor in really skinny jeans), no poor folks, no nerds, no awkward people, and no welcome. I felt like I was crashing a really cool Christian party with shallow music and watered down preaching. I wondered what Jesus would do if he walked in.
Now I don’t think these churches set out to be unwelcoming, but it became very clear that welcoming outsiders was not a priority. Most people are just wrapped up in their life, their family, their friends, or the events of that morning. I don’t think people at these churches were being hateful or snubbing on purpose. I think they forgot “loving our neighbor” requires activity and cannot happen through passivity. In fact, I would be willing to bet that a combination of their own insecurities, lack of confidence and lack of leadership were the real reasons people ignored me.
How can we be different?
1.) I think at this point we are different. I see so many of you walking across the room to a visitor. I see you smile and push yourselves to reach out to folks who are very different than you. I am so excited to see your love flow out in this way.
2.) As we practice welcoming each other at church (think insiders), we will perfect our skills of welcoming outsiders.
3.) Some of us are amazing at serving behind the scenes and others of us are great at being hospitable with our words and presence. Keep it up, but challenge yourself to “please his neighbor for his good,” as the Apostle says above, by pressing into relationships and activities that don’t come natural to you. We need servants who are consistent and faithful. Maybe offer yourself to serve a couple Sundays a month. This will lead to more connection and ownership of the church.
4.) Love is your job here. Don’t wait for others to step up. If you are aware of a need, meet it or make sure that it is met (this is much better than complaining to the staff; although, we are here to help you serve!)
5) Ask Jesus to make you aware. Ask Jesus to guide your feet to people who need love and encouragement. Ask Jesus to give you his eyes for people.
6.) Finally, to be an All Souls Church, we must understand and believe that when it comes to welcoming and serving and saving us “Christ did not please himself.” Instead, he did what was necessary because of his love for us. Jesus welcomes you, loves you and is with you. Let his love flow through you.
May Christ be pleased to grow us as an All Souls Church, welcoming one another, the outsider and loving our neighbor to build him up for his good. To Him who is able to make this and much more happen in our church.
Grace and peace,