For those of you who don’t dwell in the state shaped like a mitt allow me to enlighten you for a bit. There are a few certain seasons that Michigander’s mark their calendars by. One is of course deer season, winter (which lasts about 9 months sometimes) and the season we currently find ourselves in…open house season. In Michigan we not only celebrate the achievements of our high school graduates, we flat out party. We’re talking tents, food, outdoor games, themes, gifts, cards, student shrines, etc. And as a youth pastor this season becomes all the more daunting as you are expected to (not that I mind at all…I usually enjoy them) attend every open house. Now some open houses are great. You know the family; and most of the attendees are familiar as well. You walk up to the party and you feel right at home. And then there are the other open houses. Through no fault of the students or even their families there is an environment that is…well it’s not like the other one. Which got me thinking (you’ve never read that phrase before) I wonder how many people walk into church feeling like the latter instead of the former? After all, shouldn’t our churches best be described as open houses?
In an epistle which gets under the skin of most the writer of James says this, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” – James 2:1-4. And I am not even sure it is even always about rich vs poor. I think it is all to often who we are comfortable with vs those we aren’t. Now put yourself in the place of the one coming in. I don’t think in any church today we would actually tell guests where they have to sit based on how they look, but do we sometimes turn our attention to those we already know instead? Or maybe when people enter our houses of worship we approach new people who look like us, dress like us, smell like us, etc. and leave others to find their way on their own.
No one likes to feel awkward (even thought I think I may have made a career of being that way). Everyone wants to feel accepted and loved right where they are. And shouldn’t our churches be the very place where this happens? Maybe we can take a cue from this season and the open houses that make us feel like family to rethink the way we do church. Maybe everyone who enters our church doors will start to feel like family from the start….after all, we are all God’s children.