Lesley and I have decided to start playing bridge and have been to a couple of local clubs to see about joining. You may wonder why I am writing about this, but it is because of our different experience of welcome in the two clubs – and the insights that that has given us about welcome in church.
To be fair to the two clubs I suspect that they have a different emphasis – one is focused on the playing of bridge, and the other is more social. I am not saying that one is right and one is wrong – rather questioning who it is for. If you know how to play bridge, what to do when you get there and your main concern is to turn up, play your bridge, focusing on the game, and go home then one club is better for you; if you want to chat a little as well as play bridge then perhaps the other.
That translates quite well to church – there are churches for the afficionados; places where those in the know can go and focus on what they want to focus on, but where newcomers can feel a bit lost. Then there are churches where perhaps the service is a little more flexible, but where newcomers can feel more included.
There is a place for both, and indeed I believe that Willow Creek hold mid week services for the leadership, with Sunday services being focused on newcomers.
The challenge is what kind of church are we, and what kind of church are you?