This morning I was changing the church sign taking down the yard sale announcement and putting back up our community dinner announcement. The dinner announcement is a mainstay on the sign, only being replaced on occasion by other things going on. Because it is there so much, I sometimes move the words around so the plastic behind the letters does not get faded or turn yellow in spots. For that reason, this morning I wrote:
Being a bit of a grammar enthusiast, I immediately recognized that some people could misunderstand our intention. Instead of believing there is a free dinner for the entire community, they could read it as a “community free dinner” where nobody from the community is permitted, like a “gun free zone”. We obviously welcome all.
This makes me think of how people sometimes misunderstand what it means for a church to “welcome all.” Does the church welcome sinners? Of course. Otherwise, the church would be empty because the Bible says all have sinned. Where the lost world misunderstands, and where parts of the church have lost their way is when we change the definition of being welcoming to being affirming. The church welcomes people who are in addiction, but we do not celebrate it. We affirm the opposite: that the Bible wants people to be set free from addiction. The church welcomes unmarried couples who live together, even as we affirm marriage. The church welcomes women who have had an abortion, but we affirm life. We welcome smokers… you get the idea.
God, through His Word, calls the church to welcome all. But the welcome is to, “Come. Come and be changed. Come and be saved.” In the light of eternity, nobody benefits when sin is affirmed by the church – not the sinner and not the church.