by Brandy Webb
I want to share a theme that keeps going on in my head that started at the Feast of Tabernacles this year. It deals with the question of how welcoming are we to outsiders, new believers, or people we come into contact with that are not part of our circle of friends? Are the places that we fellowship welcoming/hospitable? How welcoming are our Feast sites if someone just happened to show up from off the street because they just so happened to either see a sign about it or an advertisement? Are we showing the world that we are all-inclusive? Are we ready for new people to come into our fellowships and circle of friends?
I grew up in WWCG. We claimed to have an “open door,” welcoming to all, but inside, it sometimes felt boxed in/closed off and very cliquish. It sometimes felt excluding rather than including. We were the “one true church,” everyone else was lost.
Now, after so many breaks, splits, splinters, etc, it is obvious that there is not a “one true human church organization.” In fact, I believe it is a good thing that we aren’t under one major COG, board, president, pastor general, or whatever type of organizational church government. The reason I’m grateful for all the diverse groups is because it allows individuality with humility. It requires us, if we are willing to be inclusive and work together, to love each other regardless of our different worship styles because we are all trying our best to be in God’s family. I also like the fact that after the splits, I have studied more, searched more, examined more through the Scriptures and prayer.
Yet, I still ask myself, am I welcoming more? Does my life make those around me want to learn about the one true God? Do “outsiders” feel loved and forgiven when they meet me, or do they feel judged and ridiculed? Am I setting a good example for my kids on how to treat people? And then even deeper, do our fellowship groups, whether large or small, make the new in Christ feel welcomed and loved? Or do they come in to find cliques, factions, and divisions amongst the brethren, and especially between one fellowship and another?
I guess what has been on my mind is the main point of how inclusive is the Body of Christ? Are we representing Jesus to the world? He ate with the outcasts (Mark 2:1-15). He died for everyone (1 John 2:2). He desires no one to perish, “but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
The truth is there are no factions and cliques in God’s eyes. We are all His children, and He desires us all to feel, know, and experience His love, His healing, His forgiveness, His Spirit, and eternal life. Are we making it clear that this is the God we worship to those whom we encounter?
I understand that it is not easy to step out of our comfort zones/box/group of friends and reach out to someone on the “outside,” but when we do, we have the potential to plant a seed of hope and joy within another person. We all know the pain and hurt we feel when we are excluded from one thing or another; therefore, we should make every effort to not treat people that way. The world excludes. God includes. Which way should we follow?