Where they're always glad you came
Last updated 7/5/2007 at Noon
Over the years I’ve noticed something fairly common in churches: most operate with a slogan that “Everyone is Welcome.” But oddly enough, most outsiders don’t really feel welcome when they go.
One of the all-time most popular television series was “Cheers.” Set in an unspectacular sports bar in Boston, it featured a lineup of characters who were all a few ticks off center, nearly drove each other crazy, but hung together anyway out of friendship and necessity. Like the theme song said:
“Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.”
Norm and Clifford, Frazier and Woody – their names may not have meant anything to anyone else in the world, but inside Cheers they were valuable, accepted and welcomed, not with a slogan but with a relationship.
And honestly, wouldn’t everyone like to find a place where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came? A place where you counted – and no matter how long you were away, they were always glad when you came back?
Philip Yancey writes of a conversation with an alcoholic friend of his. He shares about the virtues of Alcoholic Anonymous, often absent in churches. When I’m late to church, people turn around and stare at me with frowns of disapproval. I get the clear message that I’m not as responsible as they are. When I’m late to AA, the meeting comes to a halt and everyone jumps up to hug and welcome me. They realize that my lateness may be a sign that I almost didn’t make it. When I show up it proves that my desperate need for them won out over my desperate need for alcohol.
In light of what God has done for us, don’t you think that the church should be the most grace-based and accepting place in the world? Where every gathering is a homecoming celebration for prodigals? Where the people wait and look down the road for just one more wandering stranger struggling back home?
I just have to believe that if we could make a place where God is alive, truth never changes and people are embraced with true acceptance and genuine love – you wouldn’t be able to beat people off with a stick. The kind of place that doesn’t focus on how long people have been away but on how glad we are that they’ve come back.