Having studied Romans over the last several months it is pretty clear that in the early church there were many issues between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Boundaries over fellowship persisted even when calls to unity in Christ through the Spirit had been preached by the apostles. It seems that the Gentiles had quite a long road ahead of them to break their way into the church and gain acceptance by the “in group” – the Jews. The Jews had the heritage. They had the law and the prophets. They had a long standing relationship with God. Along with that came an air and attitude of superiority. That made it extremely difficult for some Gentiles to gain a footing in the early church.
In the 2,000 years since then it seems things have changed. The outsiders have become the insiders. Those who once struggled to find equal footing and cross cultural lines of fellowship got so far inside the church that they too began acting like the only ones God cares about. They began putting on airs and attitudes of superiority. And like their predecessors they became the ones who made it extremely difficult for anyone to break into the new “in crowd.” Of course, I am talking about us. We, the Gentiles, have gotten so comfortable with church and so used to be the leaders, preachers, teachers, elders, etc that we often make it extremely difficult to allow outsiders in.
We who are in ministry and leadership positions are often the world’s worst when it comes to this. We come to church and know just about everyone. We figure everyone felt just as connected on Sunday morning as we did. But many don’t. In many churches across America on any given Sunday morning people come and go without even being spoken to, without being greeted or without anyone actually being genuinely interested that they are there.
It is important that the insiders make it extremely easy for outsiders to make their way in. If the only barriers between a non-Christian and God are sin and us (and how hard we make it on them to feel accepted) then shame on us! Christ can certainly take care of their sin but it seems he often has a very difficult time getting us out of the way. I have done this myself. There have been times I have been talking to some of my best friends at church only to have a visitor walk right by and not even get to say hi to them.
So what ways have you or your congregation made things easier on visitors and “outsiders”? I am not talking about the good ole fashion rose sticker here.