Why do churches not foster understanding overall and welcome new members rather than treat them as outsiders? Through many different conversations across many different denominations, each time I ask the congregation membership why they do something it is usually followed with “that’s the way it has always been,” or “that is the way we always do it.” Why not challenge these norms to have a progressive understanding and ever-evolving understanding of the Bible, passages, and the Word, rather than simply redoing something that fit in years ago and trying to fit a round peg in a square hole of today’s society?
Wow. That’s a HECKUVA question. I’ve addressed parts of the question before (the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” and “challenging the status quo”) when I talked about “The Lemming Effect” (which can be found when you click on that link). So, I’ll send you there for a portion of today’s answer. I will also address a couple of other items raised in your question:
First, welcoming new members/visitors/guests - It’s no surprise that people don’t like change. You can see that more clearly than perhaps anywhere when you walk into a new church filled with old members who have “their seat.” When you sit in their seat, some folks become offended. Some become indignant. Some wonder why you don’t know it’s their seat (being a visitor, shouldn’t you know the rules already?!? <— that’s sarcasm). Some wonder why in the world you chose their seatwhen there are SO MANY OTHER places to sit. I don’t encourage any of those - in fact, I as the pastor and we as CommUNITY Church would probably bust their chops pretty hard if those attitudes or words were given.
But then there’s another group that would not only gladly “give up” their seat (which they understand isn’t their seat at all), but would like to sit next to you or close to you and introduce themselves and make you feel welcome. My goal is for ALL of CommUNITY Church and ALL of churches everywhere to fall into that category. Let’s face it - you’re already somewhat uncomfortable as you’re the new person in what you’d perceive to be a crowd of people who know each other. Just showing up can be a daunting task.
I would lead you to two Bible verses when dealing with the former groups of people - first off, Ephesians 4:2 tells us to gently and patiently tolerate one another. I’d ask that you show grace to the ignorant in this situation. I would also look to those people who are wondering why you’re in their seat and remind them of 1 Peter 4:9, which directs us to be hospitable to one another. As mentioned in this past Sunday’s talk ("#3 - Small Groups are Still Vital"), there are over 50 “one another” verses in the New Testament, a vast majority of which the church doesn’t do well. Shame on us for it, but grace on us to help us do it better.
Secondly, let me address your last statement about the church evolving and fitting a square peg in a round hole. The church BOTH should AND shouldn’t change. The methods that the church utilizes should ALWAYS be changing to meet the needs of the people its trying to reach… but the Message that the church should have should never change. I say “should have” because at certain times in history, the church has carried its own messages that were not Biblical (i.e., slavery, the Crusades, abuse of power, etc.). The Message of the church should ALWAYS and ONLY be Jesus’ Message to us - the Bible.
Here’s what I mean - the Bible is a timeless Truth for timely needs. The Psalmist clearly said that The Lord’s Word is forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89). We know from Paul that ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and useful… that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:15-17). We also know that Colossians 2 deals with the dangers that are faced when a church denies the sufficiency of Scripture and includes non-Biblical writings, ungodly theology (which is almost an oxymoron). In fact, Paul warned the church at Colosse, “see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8).
As you’re looking for a church, find one, just as CommUNITY Church does, that builds its foundations on the solid truths of the Bible and not on the shifting sands of the opinions or current fads of society.