Church people might see themselves as welcoming, because they run promotions claiming, “Our doors are open,” and “Our lights are on,” or maybe they hang banners and sing songs proclaiming, “All Are Welcome.” But is it so? Maybe lost people don’t feel welcome in these churches because sometimes they’re not welcome.
Lost people might be shallow and unsure in their faith. But, at some level, these people are seeking God. And if we don’t help them find God, not only are they lost, we are, too.
One Easter Sunday morning a “faithful” parishioner arrived for the 10:30 a.m. Mass, as was her custom every week, precisely at 10:25. The only problem was that the church was already full. She was invited to the overflow seating adjacent to the church sanctuary, but that was unacceptable to her. Tearing into a tirade at the top of her voice she screamed, “I’m here every week! This is my church. Who are these people? They never come any other time of the year. Why don’t they leave?” When her arguments failed to win her the seat she demanded, she proceeded to rip her offering envelope into little pieces and toss it into the air before storming out.
It’s the parish secretary who may become even more unfriendly when the confused newcomer isn’t sure of the right questions to ask. It’s the heavy-handed religious education director whose job it is to make sure that “non-parishioners” aren’t trying to pull a fast one when it comes to sacramental procedures. It’s the pastor who can’t resist some kind of passive aggressive comment to the Christmas crowds: “Merry Christmas and Happy Easter, since I know I won’t see most of you again until then.” Essentially, he’s telling regulars, “Don’t worry, we’ll be back to normal next week,” while the message to visitors is, “Don’t forget, you don’t belong to our club.”
Sure, lost people might be shallow and unsure in their faith. They are not going to appreciate our procedures and practices, nor are they contributing members yet. But, at some level, these people are seeking God. And if we don’t help them find him, not only are they lost, we are, too.
This article is excerpted from Rebuilt: Awakening the Faithful, Reaching the Lost, and Making Church Matter by Michael White and Tom Corcoran. Copyright 2013 by Ave Maria Press, Inc., P.O. Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556, www.avemariapress.com. Used with permission of the publisher from which the book is available, as well as from Cokesbury and Amazon.
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