By Dr. Kevin Thomas —
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you• (Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:1-2).
The kingdom of God is a party! Jesus repeatedly describes it as a feast, a banquet, and a wedding party. Jesus is the host of the party, and he offers an open invitation to everyone who will come. During his earthly ministry, Jesus included thieves (tax collectors), terrorists (zealots), lepers, prostitutes, the poor, and those with mental and physical challenges. In Luke 14, he insists that his house be full of partiers (v. 23), and Second Peter 3 reminds us that God doesn’t want anyone to perish (v. 9). Jesus presented the faith as a way of loving the entire world.
How odd it is that in the American religious culture there are so many self-appointed bouncers, church people who stand by the door to carefully screen who is admitted to the party. They stand securely behind the velvet rope line appraising each would-be partier, evaluating appearance and behavior by an arbitrary list of rules developed by some aloof board or council. Only those who meet the standard are admitted, and if anyone inside breaks the rules, the bouncers are on the spot to eject the trouble-maker. For centuries, this evil game seemed to be effective. The church maintained order, by force when necessary, even torturing people into compliance-all for the safety of their souls, of course.
The culture no longer plays the game. In recent decades, people have seen through the hypocrisy of our religion, and they are opting out in record numbers. According to the Barna Research Group, 77% of unchurched people in America are people who were once in church and have left. There are 30.8 million Americans who were once a part of a church but walked away. Many still believe in God. They just no longer believe in church. It’s true in our community.
What if we were the ones to welcome them back? What if we showed the kind of love that Jesus did and invited them into a loving family where everyone belongs and everyone has the opportunity to grow? It’s happening. We are breaking down barriers and welcoming people home. like the Father, Forest Lake is discovering the joy of standing with arms wide open welcoming the prodigal home.
See you Sunday at the place where there’s room for everyone!