Welcoming Or Restricted

March 19, 2018
by Vincent Walter

I appreciate church services that are thoughtfully planned and well directed. I enjoy good music and lots of interesting material. But is it possible that the devil sometimes uses our good plans and activities to get in the way of welcoming others?

The ministry of Jesus undoubtedly was the most inclusive of all ministries. He welcomed people from all walks of life. Even amidst huge crowds, He reached out to individuals — whether it be the hated tax collector Zacchaeus, the Gentile Syro-Phoenician woman, little children, or the paralytic man being admitted to His service through the roof!

In the following centuries, and perhaps even today, organized religion has sometimes failed to meet Jesus' challenge recorded in Mark 2:17b — "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (KJV)

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was the Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. He reputedly penned a short poem that satirized those who would not be considered welcoming to all:

    We are God's chosen few,
    May all the rest be damned.
    Hell's good enough for you,
    We won't have heaven crammed.

In 1865, a young Methodist minister, William Booth, arose in a meeting of church leaders to express his strong feeling that the church should be doing much more to reach out. He was told to sit down and not disturb established procedures. Whereupon, his wife, Catherine, arose in the balcony and shouted "Never, William, never!" They then left, went to the Blind Beggar Pub in the east end of London, England, and conducted the first outreach meeting of the Christian mission that became The Salvation Army in 1878.

The Salvation Army has been my church home all my life. Although it has well-planned worship services and especially good music, despite its beginning as an outreach movement, it can sometimes fail in its mission to welcome sinners.

Approximately 20 years ago, our church had a visiting speaker conducting weekend services. With large musical sections and large crowds attending, we all looked forward to the final Sunday evening service. However, just as the service began, a gentleman, obviously drunk, came in and sat between my wife and myself. It was a challenge to keep him relatively quiet while the service proceeded. Finally, as the visiting speaker rose to give his final address, he said to my wife, "I need prayer, but I'd better get out of here. I'm disturbing the program!" Inspired, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, I rose to my feet, and in a loud voice, interrupted the speaker. I repeated what the inebriated man had whispered to my wife. The program suddenly changed into a prayer meeting for that man.

Some months later, a couple who had been very active in our church were transferred to another city. At the time of their farewell, they were asked to highlight their happiest times over the years at our church. They said that the single thing that they found most encouraging was that time when the planned program had been interrupted.

Jesus showed us how to make others welcome when He restricted no one. Whether we are working in a church setting or simply interchanging with others, our challenge is to follow His example.

Prayer: God, please help us in all our activities, both private and public, to follow the example of Jesus and make all welcome. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

About the author:

Vincent Walter <vwalter@bell.net>
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    May it be so, Vincent.


    Great devotional. Amen!!!


    Great message! May we all learn from it. Blessings.


    That man might have been Jesus! You did the right thing, Vincent. God bless you.


    Dear Vincent,
    This is a blessed and blessing devotional.
    Keep writing and welcoming all.


    Vincent: Thank you for a great devotional, and an important reminder. Christ, through you, has put a profound challenge in front of us.
    Blessings.


    Thank you, Vincent, for sharing your salvationist story with us. May we always be welcoming to all who come seeking Jesus, but even more, may we willingly and faithfully carry the salvation message through word and deed to others. Blessings.


    You are quite right in saying that our services with their formality don’t always meet the needs of those who come. How wonderful that the poor soul spoke his need to your wife and that you and all the congregation responded the way you did.
    Thank you for your devotional.


    Dear Vincent
    What more can I say but a huge AMEN! and add to your voice the same sentiments. God continue to bless you and be with you in your service to Him.
    Thank you.


    Hello,
    Thanks for that. It really was worth reading. And thinking about.
    I am going to send it to our Priest because she just put out a request for volunteers for a hospitality and welcoming of newcomers ministry. We are trying to reach out to the disenfranchised in our community. Your message is very encouraging.
    (Ontario)


    I was encouraged by your devotional insofar as I, too, feel we need to put forth much more effort into making people welcome to our worship services. We are in danger of forming little cliques and speaking only to those we know, especially after our services, instead of making it a point to check on any newcomers and making them feel welcome. Unfortunately, I have yet to find many who will put this thought into action. Am not sure what the answer is.


    Vincent, do I ever agree.
    Thanks for this.
    We Presbyterians are strong believers in “Decently and in order” but the Holy Spirit doesn’t necessarily go by our tidy routines.
    If you ever want to encounter a rigid structure, I was a member of a Presbytery for 6 years.
    If the Holy Spirit ever fell there it would be ruled Out of Order and told to Sit Down!
    Good for you!


    Dear Mr. Walter; I am an elder in a church here in BC. But 25 years ago, I was a Roman Catholic living with a widowed aunt and on Christmas Eve I attended Mass with her. About halfway through the homily an obviously intoxicated native man staggered in, sat down and began yelling praises to Jesus and disrupting the Mass. People began moving away from him. Instead of having the man removed, the elderly priest turned around, without missing a beat and said: “At least he is here!” and then turned back to the altar and carried on with the Mass! The man quieted down and remained to the end of the service. That memory has become a blessing to me.


    Wonderful! If only more people had the courage to speak out when needed. Thanks for sharing.


    I am inspired to read this devotion. May our Army never forget what God raised his church to do. I am reminded that He came for the sick rather than those who feel self-sufficient.


    Hi, thank you for sharing. Very meaningful.

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