Lots of Methodists know about “Chuck Knows Church.” It’s a video series produced by the General Board of Discipleship. Usually, Chuck talks about topics – like “Lent,” “Holy Spirit,” “Baptism,” etc. This year, they started a series called “The Committee.” It’s about a fictional church (Park Grove Church) facing a life-or-death situation – they’re fading away, about to die. The Committee is charged with the task of figuring out whether or not they should close the church.
They enlist Chuck’s help after they find him filming an episode in their sanctuary. They figure that, even though he’s not a preacher (though they think he is at first), he knows a thing or two about churches. He does – apparently.
I was watching Episode 2 on “Hospitality” this morning (Yeah, my mornings are crazy fun!). Watch it here. I don’t know exactly why, but I found myself with tears forming in my eyes. When was the first time I felt welcome in church? Well, four-year-old Sunday School with Mrs. Johnson’s “Nilla Wafers” and Tro-Fe Dairy Orange drink in the little milk cartons. A LONG TIME AGO! There was UMYF in high school, with Jill, our youth director. Extend the picture and there was my first summer at Elementary Camp at Camp Sumatanga. That one lasted a while! It’s still going on, as a matter of fact.
As a pastor, you’re always getting “welcomed” whenever you move – some churches are better at it than others. There’s always a reception. There’s always some gifts – food, move-in help, etc. But, do we ever feel really welcomed? Maybe its just me, but there seems to always be just a little bit of distance. We’re always a “semi-outsider,” never all the way “in.” The other day, some church members were talking and they said, “The preacher texted me out of the blue yesterday . . .” I guess they saw me looking confused (I didn’t text them) and said, “Oh, I was talking about Gary [two preachers ago]. When we like you, we call you ‘Preacher’.” That might be as close as I’ve gotten to a real welcome in a long time.
But that’s not why Chuck made me cry. I cried for all those people out there who need to feel welcomed to life. For many folks, life sucks! They need someone to love them and welcome them into Christ’s love. They don’t look like, act like, talk like, or live like most of the people in our churches but they are exactly the people Jesus wants.