What message are we communicating to our unchurched neighbors this Easter?
I hope it’s one of hope and love and acceptance, but when I read some of the church signs I’ve seen recently, I can’t help but wonder.
Signs that suggest that coming to church on Easter is a bad thing – if you don’t show up on other Sundays as well.
Those signs make my heart hurt for those who will read them and feel shamed by them. Perhaps they were thinking about attending church this Easter, but now feel unwelcome. I can’t say that I blame them.
When did we become a people who criticize others when their church attendance doesn’t match up with ours? When did we lose sight of the wonderful opportunity Resurrection Sunday brings? The opportunity to extend God’s love, grace, and compassion to those who aren’t sitting in our services regularly. What a tragic mistake on our part.
I suppose this matter resonates with me because there was a time when I also attended church only on special occasions. I have family members who still do this. I also have family and friends who never attend, not even on Easter. How thrilled I would be to have them join me at church sometime, anytime, even if it’s only once a year.
My challenge to you, my fellow church-goers, is this …
When you notice unfamiliar faces in church this Easter, give them a sincere welcome. Silently lift up a prayer on their behalf. Rejoice in your heart that they are there. Who knows, maybe your kindness will make them feel as if they belong, or at the very least, fill them with the hope of belonging. Maybe your hospitality will tear down the wall guarding their heart, enabling them to breathe easier and hear a fresh word from God.
Maybe they’ll experience enough goodness to bring them back. If not next week, maybe the week after. Or three months from now. Or next Easter. Regardless of when, or even if they return to a specific church or building, the love and truth shown to them on Easter Sunday will not be forgotten.
But before this message can be conveyed within the church, it must be conveyed outside the church. On the signs mounted in our parking lots. In our attitudes as we talk and do business within our communities. In our actions as we choose to make a difference in the lives of those around us.
Let’s work on creating a message that sounds something like this —
Yes, we are open on Sundays. Won’t you please come and join us?