An open letter to those on the outside looking in

Posted: July 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

If you aren’t a member of a church right now, if you haven’t felt loved and welcomed, or if you haven’t experienced grace in your life, this open letter is for you.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'” — Matthew 25:37-40

Dear friend:

I know that you come here on occassion and you’re looking for something.  Maybe you’re dealing with something in your life or maybe you’re dealing with heartbreak.  You might even just be away from what is familiar and you’re looking for a place to call home.

So, you walk into our sanctuary on Sundays and we give you a less than enthusiastic, “Hello.”  Many times, we don’t even speak to you.  Sometimes you hear us talking about other people that you don’t know — and some of our comments aren’t the particularly loving.

Sometimes we stare at you as we try to figure out who you are and why you’re here.  We don’t go out of our way to let you know where the important things such as nurserys and bathrooms are located.  We don’t do a great job of explaining in our bulletins what goes on during the service.  And if you really wanted to get involved our announcements with such precise directions as “Regular Meeting at Joe Smith’s House” aren’t really going to help. 

During our times in which insiders are enthusiastically greeted by other insiders, we give you a token hello, how are you or what is your name?  But you go away from these insider times feeling as if you are completely out of place and we help to reinforce your inner-most feelings that you don’t belong here.

At various times throughout the service, you are confused because we stand up and sit down and sing or say things that you can’t find anywhere in a bulletin.  And what we call the sermon sometimes seems to be focused only on what those who are here on a regular basis would know.  We’re sorry because our preference is for  insiders.

When we pass the plate to get the money, or the “fee for attending,” we look to see if you are putting anything in.  We want to know if you’ll pay your part.

At the end of the service, we really don’t speak to you or share anything about ourselves.  You start to leave and we tell you, “Thanks for visiting with us today.”  It’s another reminder that you aren’t a part of this group, merely an outsider allowed to participate this week. We say, “Hope you come back next week,” and you say, “We’ll see” while thinking, “Are you crazy?”

And you get in your car and you drive out of our parking lot and we hope that you’ll be back next week.

We apologize for not realizing that when you drove into our parking lot this Sunday morning that you were doing one of the hardest things that you could do.  You opened the doors of a strange building, a strange institution and you came in to see what Christian love was all about.  We apologize in our pettiness, in our fascination with ourselves and what we want that we failed to recognize you as you visited.  You came here seeking love, grace and mercy and we failed to show it.

We hope that you will accept our apologies for not engaging you in conversation, for not sharing our stories with you and asking for yours.  We apologize that the material we provided to you about our church is out of date or completely insider-driven. 

We apologize that we failed to see that when you came to be a part of this worship service that Jesus Christ was in you.  We failed to see Him, we failed to see You.  We failed to take the first steps in helping to build a relationship with you.

We promise to do better.  We promise to change.

Until the next time someone such as yourself shows up.  And we do the same thing again.

We apologize for just not getting it.


Written by the building that you sometimes mistakenly call “the church”

  1. narciejeter says:

    LOVE this and hate that’s true all at the same time! Very profound way to put it Dean. Thanks for sharing this! =0)

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