Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 (NIV)
I have been in pastoral work for about 25 years. One disappointment that has remained with me is the fact that truly multi-racial congregations are very few and far between. I understand that ethnic and cultural backgrounds hold to different traditions and expressions of worship. I also understand that feeling comfortable in worship seems to be a highly valued piece of our worship. I just wanted to believe that we would be enriched by a wide diversity of peoples and cultural expressions.
Having said my mind above, there are still many, many like us, who do not attend church for one reason or another. Some people don’t attend church because they sense they are different from everyone else who attends church. Others don’t come because people in the church do not welcome them. If a church really wants to reflect the body of Christ, which is made up of many parts, they need to ask themselves regularly, “Who is not here?”
About 20 percent of the population have disabilities; but do 20 percent of the people at your church have visible or “invisible” disabilities? Do people who have been in prison feel welcome? People from a variety of social classes? Single adults? Poor people? Rich people?
In Jesus’ parable, the servants are sent out to “compel” people to come. God calls us to do the same in our churches. We must work to welcome people who feel that they don’t fit. We need to consider how we might need to change our relationships, our ways of interacting, our worship, so that people who are typically excluded will find they are welcome and needed by our churches.
Every church excludes people. Whom is your church excluding, and what changes do you need to make so that they will feel welcome? How can your church actively invite people who are not attending? A good start is to make friends with people and then invite your friends to come with you.
Lord Jesus, you welcomed people who were looked down upon by society. In the same way, teach me to welcome people much different from my “own kind” into my life and my church. In your name, Amen.