Your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:10–12)
Can you remember what it was like to come into a church for the first time?
I was brought up going to church, so I can’t really remember the first time I stepped into a church. Perhaps you are the same, or maybe you remember that first occasion that brought you into a church building. Was it a good experience, or a strange one?
Coming to church for the first time can be quite a culture shock. Even the most welcoming of churches (of which I hope we are one) can be strange to outsiders. Sometimes we stand up, sometimes we sit down. There are special words that people say together, and everyone else seems to know what they are. There are songs that perhaps you’ve never sung, or even heard, before. There might be communion, which adds another layer of complexity and confusion.
It’s been said that coming into church can feel like stepping into a betting shop for the first time. If you have never placed a bet before then there is so much that is strange and unfamiliar. There is jargon to try and decipher and processes that don’t seem to make much sense. All of it is made much worse by the fact that everyone else around you seems to know exactly what they are doing!
At Giving Sunday this year we were reminded from Psalm 145 that our goal as a church is to welcome others. David writes that God’s people tell of the glory of God’s kingdom and speak of His might, so that all people may know of God’s mighty acts and the splendour of His kingdom. Our aim as Christians is to invite and welcome others into God’s kingdom. We are to be a church for those outside the church.
It’s easy to lose track of this purpose. We can forget how strange church things can be to those not used to the church. We can unthinkingly put barriers up to people hearing God’s goodness and coming to know Him for themselves. It happens in every church and we are not immune to it.
Will we commit to being a church for those outside the church this year? Will we be on the lookout for those barriers we might put up and be creative in taking them down? Let’s remember that God has given us a task to give a welcome to those who don’t yet know him, and let’s throw ourselves into that task in this year and beyond.
Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash