A Welcoming Church
by Matt Smith
A few weeks ago a pastor of a large church outside of Chicago carried out a little experiment. The pastor, James MacDonald, host of the program you may have heard on the radio called “Walk in the Word.” Pastor MacDonald wanted to see how his congregation would react to a homeless person camped outside one of the church campuses. So he dressed in layers, put on a fake beard and long gray fake hair and parked a shopping cart next to him. Then he waited to see what kind of reaction he got. Not surprisingly, quite a few of the congregants walked right past as if he wasn’t there. However, he was happy to report that many offered food, water, money and prayer. When his little experiment was over, he pushed his shopping cart onto the church platform and began to take off his beard and layers of clothing to reveal his true identity.
Granted, an experiment like that would certainly work a lot better at a church outside of Chicago compared to a country church like Anthony. However, the point he was trying to drive home is certainly relevant to us as well. In the first 7 verses of James 2, we read about the sin of showing favoritism to certain people based on their economic status. James gives the example of someone who was obviously wealthy showing up in their congregation and being offered the best seat. On the other hand, a poor person attending the same service is offered to sit on a footstool. While I’d like to think we might not be as extreme in how we treat visitors at our church, we should take the time to evaluate how welcoming and friendly we are to people who look, smell or act different than we do.
It’s only natural that we like to hang around people that we have a lot in common with but how willing are we to step outside of our comfort zone and show Christian love to people who we wouldn’t normally want to associate with. As we have been able to experience a great blessing with many new people coming to Anthony over the past year, let’s be careful to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of only associating with the same people week after week but to be very deliberate to be friendly and loving to anyone who comes through our doors.