How to be Unwelcome

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As a pastor, elder or other church leader questions are asked about our churches. Church seekers often seem to have lists of questions they want answered. Some are as simple as children’s programs, recommended attire and service times. However, we are often approached by people asking complex questions of doctrine and practice, which are to them litmus tests of orthodoxy. In different regions the questions can vary according to the whim of local church conditions. The ones I encounter the most are about Bible translation used, women in ministry, seeker sensitive services, prosperity gospel, tongues, tithing, worship style and even view on Christmas trees and Easter Bunnies. These last two usually leave me almost slack jawed in amazement that anyone still considers them an issue. These questions tell a great deal about the person asking the question. To be honest I have gotten so tired of the “Quasi-Christian Jihads” from which these questions stem and the divisions to which they contribute that, while I still answer them, I have taken to being a bit more direct and even at times confrontational with the one asking.

Today, I answered an email from a man with a list of three questions: women in ministry (literally, Do we allow women to do anything?), whether we warn people before taking communion like in 1 Cor 11, and if I am a feel-good preacher (I was almost afraid what he meant by that, but he defined it and I was able to answer that though I feel good about my preaching I did not qualify as that by his definition).

I answered each in turn and then followed with this:

Now for the question that was not asked, but that obviously runs beneath these: is this a good church for you? If you are a legalist with an ax to grind, leaving one church because you can’t convince the brethren to follow your pet doctrinal views, then you will have no greater luck here. We are mature enough not to be “tossed about by every wind of doctrine.” I’m not interested in those battles, having died on more doctrinal hills than most will be able to count. We are interested in Christ; in knowing him; in going deeper in him; in being his body, united together. We refuse to allow nit-picky demonically inspired divisions to pull us apart. We will stand for the truth and die for it if needed.

If he is a person who has been unable to get other churches to sign onto his legalistic smorgasbord of doctrinal delights, then it would not be right to encourage him to come to our church—neither right for us, nor right for him. I did offer to buy him a coffee and discuss them with him, however. I hope he takes me up on it because I love to discuss such things, just not fight about them in church.

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