The more I’ve shared the disquiet I’ve had around this issue, the more people I’ve discovered share it.
The less radically welcoming church is, the more incapable it is of connecting to those who may need it the most.
When it comes to faith, there is a growing awareness of all the things we don’t get to pick.
Faith is accepting something as true — it is an internalising journey. Unfortunately, too often it gets pitched as externalising one — that truth inherently requires an outward projection.
“Turn or burn!”
This is a problem when it comes to trying to convince someone else of a truth — where there is no credibility, truth cannot be shared.
Active, vibrant faith embodies invitation — not just to one specific, singular experience we have — but a whole fabric of experiences. Within church, this likely includes components of ideology, culture and even language.
The more strict the orthodoxy in a given group, the more nailed-down and codified these experiences tend to be.
And the more narrow they are, the smaller the group they “work” for.
In fact, the most restrictive theological paradigms view this as a good thing. They view a selective invitation itself as a good thing. They’re eager to share that the straight and narrow path is inherently unpopular.
They invest a lot of energy in deciding who is “in” and who is “out”. And the people who are “out” are thus unwelcome. Permanently.
This can easily turn into a circular vortex of exclusionary folly.
Fixing it requires a examination of some fundamental assumptions. How high do we want the bar to be before people join us in our beliefs?
Angry, bitter debates are still being had about this between high-church and seeker-sensitive camps.
We need to do some honest thinking about how narrow a welcome we’re prepared to live with.
From the record of Jesus’ life we have in the Bible, his welcome was radical. From my reading, it doesn’t look like there was a filter. (Unless it included people like the Pharisees, primarily because their welcome was imminently selective.)
He didn’t insist on certain, predictable ways of relating to him, either.
A confident, internal truth exudes humility. It doesn’t make unnecessary truth claims, or unverifiable if/then statements.
It listens, it understands and it knows. And it speaks only when it’s convinced that is for the best.