This week I have seen one of those common signs: “Only food bought on these premises can be eaten here”. Now I understand that not all establishments can offer table and chairs for everybody eating their packed lunch or cake bought from the take away. If they did, I am sure they would be concerned that there may not be enough seats for potential customers and therefore they may go out of business.
I reflected if this is not how the Church is seen sometimes. This is hardly a kingdom welcome. You are only welcome if you only consume what we feed you on the premises. As many of us will testify this does not work for religious and spiritual consumption in today’s culture. We have been nourished by a varied diet, we have eaten before we get to Church. It also got me thinking about how hospitable we are to vegetarian newcomers to our meat eating dining room.
It seems to depend on the culture of our local church, what the attitude is towards those who are from a different tradition, have different beliefs and values. Being welcoming, hospitable before joining seems Kingdom to me, all welcome.
I am not sure we could put the equivalent to a sign outside that says “come in, take a seat, bring your own food or let us serve you”, but it’s worth figuring out what it might say.