Our Kind of People
It goes by many names….clubs, cliques, circles, our group, best friends, SS class, prayer group, or a host of other names of tightly-knit relational groups. Whatever it is called, it is only appreciated by those that benefit. Those that are not welcomed continually remember what it was like to be rejected. We have all known of people that visited churches and never felt at home. Some would even say, “The people were congenial but just did not allow us into their group.”
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned, “If Christians have caste differences also, “he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior. (Source Unknown).
I truly don’t think that any Christ follower sets a course in life to get really close to 3-4 couples “only” in life and never welcome “those other people” into our group. After all, they are not “our kind of people”. What that means in most cases is that over the years, those close-knit couples have amassed lots of life experiences together. They have traveled, dined, vacationed, worshiped, attended sporting events, movies, home fellowships, and done lots more things “together”. After trial and error, they seemed to like the same things, enjoy each other’s company, and not have to work to relate to anyone new. So, they choose to be the select group that does what they do together and the same goes for what they choose not to do.
Because I am a pastor, I am in church almost every Sunday every year at my designated pulpit. However, on those occasions when I am on vacation, or preaching at another church, or speaking at a banquet, it is always lonely to be the guest. The person that invited me greets me, gives me the agenda for the evening, and then most often excuses himself to go speak to “his people”. That leaves me seated at the front as people walk by me, greet each other in the seats behind me, and will even sit next to me if it is at a banquet table and begin a conversation with each other and never acknowledge my presence. It is worse when the service is over. Folks move swiftly to lines in the aisles to make the great escape and if they talk, it is to a friend that they have been sitting with for years. I have literally stood at the front of some churches for 15 minutes at the close of the service while the pastor is shaking hands and have no one speak to me.
I am not whining, but if someone like me knows that is going to be the case after being 65 years in the church setting, how very difficult it is for a first time attender to be in that room and watch all of the interaction and feel that they are quarantined from the fellowship.
If each Christian determined to speak to every person we saw on Sunday, the entire church would be overjoyed at the fellowship and encouragement they received. This Sunday, someone will be present that surely does need a smile, a handshake, a look in the eyes, and a genuine, “It’s good to see you here today.” Will you make sure that everyone you see knows they are welcome at your church?