Thursday, January 27, 2011

When a Church Doesn't Want You

Finding a new church home is never easy – especially when you’re new to the area.

Sherry was a single mom with two young kids when she moved to California from the Mid-west. One of the first things she set out to do was find a good church home, so she began her search.

The young mom was quick to filter out the churches that wouldn’t fit with her needs. The kids were her top priority, so she wanted a place where she knew they’d be safe and blessed. She was looking for a church that wasn’t so small that she’d feel smothered, and yet not so large that she’d get lost in the crowd.

Week after week she visited the myriad of faith families in the city she now called home, and it didn’t take long for her to find the church to which she wanted to commit. Her kids loved their new Sunday school teachers and were quickly making friends and connections.

Sherry enrolled in the membership classes, which only served to reinforce the fact that she was indeed in the right place.

When the education was over, Sherry happily joined with the other graduates and prepared to become an official member of her new church. She and the kids had been regular attendees for six or more months and they were settling into their new life in California.

The final step in becoming a church member was meeting personally with the pastor, presumably so he could welcome the parishioners to the family. That’s when it all fell apart.

The pastor of the church Sherry now considered her home sat across the desk from her in his large office. “Sherry”, he said, “you are a single mom with two kids and I don’t think you fit our member profile. Thank you for your interest, but we won’t be making you a member.”

Why? Sherry may never know for sure, since she walked out of that man’s office and never returned to the church. Was it because divorce made her and her family somehow unseemly? Was it because she couldn’t contribute financially as substantially as some of the other parishioners?

It is only by the grace of God that Sherry still believes in assembling together with other believers and attends any church at all. Her kids are now teens, and like many of us, she’s seen her share of piety and hypocrisy in the church. My friend Sherry keeps her eyes on the Lord.

Look around. Are there new people sitting in the pew next to you? Welcome them, talk to them and listen to them—listen well. Get off the pew!

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