Sunday, May 6, 2012


In 1971 I was 11 years old and just starting to get into rock music.  One of the first 45 singles I ever owned was a song called Signs by a band called the 5 Man Electrical Band (younger readers make think it was a 90s song by a band called Tesla- but they just remade it).  It was a song that captured the times.  The establishment of the day was faced with radical new ideas from radical young people, and they didn't know what to do about it.  So they made rules.  The rules were occasionally helpful, but more often than not seemed silly and oppressive to the folks they were intended to impact.  There did indeed seem to be signs everywhere that gave instructions on where to go, what to do and how to behave.  And rather than compelling young people to conform, these attempts at legislating behavior caused further rebellion.  I remember it well.  Tell us to cut our hair and we will let it grow.  Tell us war is the only way and we will march for peace.  It was a moment in time.

There are people who have always enjoyed posting those kinds of signs in the church.  They have imposed dress codes.  They have chosen musical styles that are foreign to young people, a sign that says "Not Welcome."  They have suggested, or in some cases demanded, that you have your act together before you are welcome at church.  The church is no place for sinners, their signs would say.  We often go out of our way to say that riff-raff are not welcome, and then we define what riff-raff is (see my vintage post, Blessed Are the Riff-Raff).  Some of our churches are uncomfortable with people of color.  Some of them are quick to exclude gays.  Some refuse to give women equal treatment.  Some churches infer that you must have a certain political view before you are welcome.  And some are quick to turn away people just like me.  People with public sin in their past. People who have failed for all to see. We may not hang actual signs in our churches, but the messages are clear nonetheless.  You are not welcome here!

The sad part is that when we reject the riff-raff, we reject Jesus.  When we reject entire groups, we reject Jesus.  When we make church uncomfortable and foreign to young people, we reject Jesus.  He said he came to hang out with the rejects of this world, and then he did.  Jesus didn't just ignore the signs, he tore them down and stomped on them.  And he called us to do the same.  He said the greatest commandment was to love God and to love each other.  He told us to love our neighbor and then pointed out to those listening that EVERYONE (including those nasty Samaritans!) is our neighbor.  The final verse of Signs is one that has always given me hope and comfort. It reminds me of what the church can and should be- the one place where there are no signs of exclusion and rejection.  The lyrics are as follows:

And the sign said "Everybody welcome
Come in, kneel down and pray"
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all
I didn't have a penny to pay
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
It said "Thank you, LORD for thinking about me
I'm alive and doing fine!"

It's time for every church to become "The Friendly Little Church On the Corner where the doors swing wide to welcome!"  What signs does your church need to take down?  Enjoy this muical blast from the past, and remember- the church could do with a few more radicals.  A few more Jesus Freaks...

Because Of Jesus,


  1. It's so sad that there are still so many churches who are accepting of everyone. There are still churches here in our small town where you have to dress a certain way. As my son said "When we were at our old church I felt like I had to be perfect all the time. That we were having tea with God." That's why we drive 30 miles away to a church that does open its arms to everyone.

  2. I love that description- "tea with God." Thanks for sharing, Amy.

  3. Drew and I going through a bit of this at our church. It's frustrating to see people who do genuinely want to serve God, but aren't willing to change. I'm not sure how we can encourage this open arms mentality when we get accused of "going against the Word of God" or "not loving God enough."

  4. I am not sure either Andrea, other than keep telling the stories them the stories of Jesus and the tax collectors, Samaritans, hookers and other riff-raff that he clearly welcomed with open arms. That and pray for them. They are missing out on knowing some amazing people and understanding what grace really is...

  5. Yeah. I have to remember the riff-raff and the 'righteous' still both need God, which means I need pray for all of them and love all of them.


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