Worship Together

Worship Together

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

Worship Together

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.

~Ralph W. Sockman

A story in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul entitled, “A Guy Named Bill” made a big impact on my life. Bill was a college student dressed like a hippie. He didn’t look like the other members of the middle-class church he visited one day. There was no place to sit, so Bill sat down on the carpet near the pulpit. An elderly deacon stood up and made his way to the young man. Everyone in the church expected him to take care of the situation by asking him to leave. They were surprised by the deacon’s action. He dropped his cane and plopped down on the floor beside Bill and worshipped alongside him.

As a pastor’s wife, I’ve served in many churches, both large and small. I’ve seen people who want to handpick the members who worship with them. Too many church members want people who look like them, think like them and act like them. They want to pick and choose those who attend “their” church. Of course, not all churches are like that; neither are all members. But some certainly are and they need to be taught that the church doesn’t belong to them, but to God.

After reading “A Guy Named Bill,” I was moved to tears. I knew of a small church where the congregation split because someone inside the church invited some people who were considered undesirable to attend. Let’s just say the visitors didn’t resemble the rest of the congregation.

When I heard of this situation, I decided that I would stand firm and insist that all people who want to worship in a church should be welcome. The authority of the church is neither with the pastor nor with the deacons. The church should not be run by committees of people. Charter members should have no say as to who can worship in the church. The authority of the church is God and God alone.

When God opens the door to a church, He opens it to all who want to come. I remember standing up inside a church one Sunday evening several years ago and saying, “If we have a welcome sign outside, we must welcome anyone who wants to worship. This is God’s house and all people are welcome.”

This boldness came after I read “A Guy Named Bill.” If we want to join a social club that allows a select few to become members that is one thing. But nobody has the right to restrict anyone from coming to God’s house to worship.

Today, I often speak at women’s events — banquets, teas and conferences. I see a variety of ladies as I stand before them and share God’s precious word with them. God does not show favoritism. Every time I look out over the audience, I see the people God loves.

It is my heart’s desire that I will always demonstrate the same kind of love as the elderly deacon who met Bill at the front of the church. I will always welcome those who come with open arms. And I just might go and plop down beside them if they find a place on the floor. . .. Or better yet, I will offer them my seat, welcoming them in the same way God would welcome them. I will do unto others as I would have them to do unto me. I will show kindness.

~Nancy B. Gibbs

More stories from our partners