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Take the welcoming spirit further

Pastoral Pondering


In the ’90s young Christian leaders made a big push to convince church folks to be more accepting of diverse appearances.

It was a theme of sermon after sermon, retreats, youth camps, books, videos, and revivals — it even inspired a bazillion “All are Welcome” church signs.

As I remember, much of this was motivated by two factors: first, there was the growing sense that the formality of church dress and appearance standards had driven away young people who were experimenting with all sorts of fashions. Second, there was a consistent appeal to the character of Jesus.

At the time it felt like maybe Jesus and his radical hospitality had been completely forgotten, only recently rediscovered, like an artifact lost for centuries in a dusty cave.

Today there remain vestiges of the, “only those who look like suburban white people inherit the Kingdom,” but for the most part the campaign worked. We can happily report to Jesus that our congregations welcome jeans, piercings, and tattoos.

Although I agree whole heartedly with the sentiment, it is for me now, a reminder of how far behind Christ the Church often follows.

Jesus gave up his life for Hitler, and we have to have a campaign to convince straight-laced Christians to mingle with tattooed people!?!

Last week’s latest in-school murder reminds me that the stakes are much higher than a willingness to sit in a pew of diversely clad worshippers.

I won’t pretend to know how to cure one of our society’s malformed attributes, but I do think that a welcoming spirit inside a church building does not begin to go far enough into our world’s brokenness.

It’s time we caught up to Jesus and took seriously the kind of love that drove him to his death.

I have a feeling that road leads to something better, more useful to our society, and more challenging than the now ubiquitous, “All are Welcome” signs.

Matthew Ingalls is pastor at River Street Church of God




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