Church, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon

Originally published August 25, 2010

The LORD said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually. I Kings 9:3

As Golden Girl Sophia would say, “Picture it:”

After church one Sunday, a friend says, “Why don’t you come over to my house tomorrow night for dinner?”

So, the appropriate time comes on Monday evening, and you drive over to her house. The door is standing open because she is expecting you, and you’re familiar enough with each other that you feel comfortable just walking on in.

As you’re walking in, you see your friend standing there, and you say to her, “I invite you into this house! You are welcome here!”

Anything seem a little off about that?

Well, of course that seems strange. It’s her house.

But that’s what is taking place in churches all over America every Sunday morning. I saw it in a televised local church service last week. The worship leader stood up to lead the first song and said, “God we welcome you into this place!” I’ve heard others say things like, “Lord, we invite you into this house this morning!” We sing songs like Holy Spirit, Thou art Welcome and Lord, we Invite You.

‘Scuse me? Isn’t the church God’s house?

Of course, it isn’t God’s house in the same way the temple was God’s house, in that there isn’t a holy of holies where the actual presence of God resides. On the other hand, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s only a building, like the post office or a doughnut shop.

At some point, way back when, or maybe even recently, a body of Believers got together and asked God to give them a place where they could worship Him. God saw fit to answer that prayer. He provided the land, the permits, and every brick, nail, and piece of sheetrock. He allowed His name to be placed there when we decided to call it “Grace Fellowship”, “St. Luke’s”, or “First Baptist”. He protects that building and allows it to stand as a testimony to the community: God, and God’s people, can be found here.

It’s not your church. It’s not my church. It’s God’s church. And it exists for His glory.

But somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten that. Somewhere along the way, we gave God an eviction notice and became squatters on His property. How arrogant have we become that we strut into church as though we own the place, and dare to invite Him, to welcome Him into His own house as though He were a guest? How dare we?

Maybe it’s partly because we no longer have a holy of holies that we don’t see God’s house as sacred. “Ah,” you may say, “but that’s Old Testament thinking. Now we understand that when we gather together in His name, He is with us.”

Really?

When it’s my church, my comfort, my pew, my ministry that nobody else better touch, my style of music, my opinion about how long the sermon should be, my feelings that got hurt, my idea of how things should operate, what I got out of the service, are we really gathering in His name?

Welcome, Lord. Are You sure You want to come in?

5 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday ~ Rolling Out the Welcome Wagon”

  1. I instantly thought of the song called Holy Spirt, I think, as I was reading this. It has a line where it literally says, “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. Come fill the atmosphere.” So I’m wondering about when we pray for people as well, because the phrase, “Father, come and fill so-so.” Or the like. Since the Holy Spirit already resides inside believers is saying something like this presumptuous as well? You’ve got me wondering what is a good right way to call and invite God to a worship gathering. Or do we even “need” to do such a thing?

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    1. Hi JsKiM-

      Great questions! Let me see if I can help:

      So I’m wondering about when we pray for people as well, because the phrase, “Father, come and fill so-so.” Or the like. Since the Holy Spirit already resides inside believers is saying something like this presumptuous as well?

      I’ve never been in a prayer meeting in which someone prayed “Father, come and fill so-so,” so I’m not totally sure what that means. Like you said, it is the Holy Spirit who lives in Believers, not the Father. If they’re praying for the Holy Spirit to take up residence in a Believer, I would probably call that redundant or ignorant (in the classic sense of the word) or both. But probably what they really mean and are having trouble verbalizing precisely is that they are asking the Holy Spirit to help and empower someone for a particular task. If that’s what they mean, that’s a good and perfectly biblical prayer.

      You’ve got me wondering what is a good right way to call and invite God to a worship gathering. Or do we even “need” to do such a thing?

      No, we don’t. That’s the point of the article. He’s omnipresent, so He’s already there. :0) Now if a pastor wants to open the worship service by recognizing or acknowledging God’s presence, he could say something like, “Lord we thank You that You are here with us,” or “Thank You for always being with us,” or something like that. It’s just as easy and much more biblical to say something like that than to say, “Holy Spirit, we invite you into this place.”

      Hope this helps. :0)

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      1. Thank you for your reply, Michelle. It does clear things up and got me searching out how I’m praying to and worshiping God as well.

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