Saturday, February 27, 2010

Charity in How We Approach Invitations to Attend Church with Us

As I was thinking about charity envying not this week, my mind took a sudden turn. I was considering more deeply the implication of not hoping for bad to happen to others, and it led me to consider again something about which I feel passionately - how we view those who are not of our faith and the way we too often approach inviting them to worship with us.

I know that this is a departure from my normal resolution posts on Saturday, but I hope the impression to re-post something I wrote a little over a year ago (with a little editing this morning) is inspired and will help someone gain a new perspective on our worship service each week:

I would feel like I had died and gone to heaven if every member in my ward and stake openly and sincerely invited everyone they knew to sit with us as we worship in Sacrament Meeting simply because they love them and want to share our worship with them - no other strings attached.

I would love to see our chapels packed to overflowing during Sacrament Meeting, even if many of the attendees left the building and didn't stay for the other two hours - because they weren't interested in the instruction that occurs in those meetings.

I would love to sit with a gay friend and his partner and their daughter, to smell cigarette smoke residue in the pew behind me, to wave to the girl in the tank top in the back, to see what tattoo or earring the man in front of me had added the previous week, to be surrounded by every shade of skin imaginable, etc - even if I had to wish them a blessed week after Sacrament Meeting ended, and even if I had no realistic hope in them ever being baptized and joining the Church.

In all seriousness, I believe that if we lived the true heart of the Gospel better, these friends would be among us - especially if our efforts to share the spirit of our worship were not tied to "conversion" but were focused more on simple friendship and fellowship - on the joy and spirit and peace of our worship. I think many would accept the occasional talk about the Law of Chastity or the Word of Wisdom or Modesty in Dress, if it wasn't directed in a judgmental way at them and their lifestyle - if they knew our standards didn't change our love for them. (I realize many would not accept it, but I believe many would.) I have no problem telling the missionaries to stay away from a friend who comes to church with me, if that is what that friend wants. What matters to me is that my friend is there with me.

We have the temple for those who are committed to the LDS Church in a particular way - to be with a more "exclusive" or "self-selected" group of believers. We have meetinghouses for everyone who will share our simple, Christian fellowship - to apply the truly inclusive vision of the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ. Often we confuse the two and, in so doing, unnecessarily limit who worships with us each Sunday.

Of course, I want my friends to accept the Restored Gospel, be baptized into the LDS Church and receive the blessings that enrich my life - but that's not a condition of my invitation to worship with me. I wish with all my heart that we could open our arms and embrace anyone who walked through our chapel doors, sincerely and lovingly and unconditionally - and that we brought more diverse people with us through those doors. I don't think we have to compromise our doctrinal standards to do so, but we certainly have to experience a collective mighty change of heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We've never thought of ourselves as big missionary people,despite my poor DH having been ward mission leader for seven years.That got a little old.

But when our last child was blessed ,we invited everyone we knew.I guess we got the pity vote-it was a bad pregnancy and there was a lot of gratitude for his safe birth-there must have been fifty of our friends there.They all came back to eat with us afterwards.It was amazing.No-one baptised,that was thirteen years ago now and I guess we'd know about it by now if anyone had been.
It was so good to share that with our friends,that was what we wanted.Not ticks in boxes or baptisms,but to share our experience.
Last people we got through the chapel doors.