All Are Welcome

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” – Exodus 25:8

 Given my theological orientation, the doctrine of sanctification carries special weight with me. I believe GOD calls us all to a salvation experience through Jesus Christ (addresses the consequences of our sins), and then, in simple terms, He calls us beyond to a Holy Spirit-empowered and guided life in Jesus Christ marked by willing, loving, complete, obedient submission to His Lordship. I could say more, much more, but this post is not for the purpose of systematic theology. It is about one particular aspect of the Church.

In addition to having been a pastor in a local church, I have visited quite a few over the years, occasionally to preach, but more often to simply enter into a house of worship, enter into the fellowship of worship with other believers, and to hear and be challenged by the proclamation of the Word of GOD. Unless those visits were in churches where I was known, I didn’t volunteer anything about being a pastor or even that I was a Christian. If someone asked, I’d tell them, but I’m not otherwise interested in promoting any bona fides; I just wanted to hang out in church.

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Essential to each of these experiences was whether I was actively and intentionally welcomed, whether I felt welcomed.  I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count the church signs I’ve seen that said, “All Are Welcome.”  But the only way to really know is to go inside.  Most times when I have gone inside have been positive, but there have been a few times when that wasn’t the case.  Those particular buildings all had what many refer to as sanctuaries, but they weren’t sanctuary spaces for me.

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The words “sanctuary” and “sanctification” are more like siblings than first-cousins. They both concern that which has been set aside, exclusively, for holy use.  In the case of “sanctuary,” our normal usage refers to a holy or consecrated space for the purpose of worship or refuge.  A chorus I know, sings:

So forget about yourself and concentrate on Him,

And worship Him.

So forget about yourself and concentrate on Him,

And worship Him.

So forget about yourself and concentrate on Him,

And worship Him.

Worship Him, Christ the Lord.

 Can anyone forget about themselves when they don’t feel welcomed, when they don’t feel emotionally safe? That is what I and anyone/everyone should experience when we enter GOD’s sanctuary.  It should be a place where you and I have temporary refuge from the cares and weighty issues of life and experience peace because it is holy for that purpose.  Sure, I’m more likely to experience that when I enter into the sanctuary of my “home” church, but what about the person who has no church home?  What about the visitor (believer or unbeliever) who is searching for the presence of the Holy, whether they know it or not?  This is a legitimate spiritual need and calls local church leaders to a level of awareness and sensitivity beyond what works for them and the usual crowd associated with that particular church.

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I want to be careful to not neglect what I believe to be another way to view this issue. I generally don’t prefer the King James Version of Scripture, but, in the case of the verse above, the phrasing suggests that GOD, Himself, wants to be our sanctuary.  The context of the immediately preceding verses points to the construction of a physical sanctuary as the intended understanding, and I respect that.  However, when viewed through the lens of all of Scripture, I think the idea of GOD desiring to be a sanctuary for His people is a settled issue.

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As an extended point, I believe that those made in the image of GOD, redeemed and reborn through the blood of the Lamb, should increasingly have the characteristics of sanctuary themselves. They are people who offer others temporary respite and refuge from the weights we all carry because they spend significant time in the presence of GOD, and His holiness is present in them.  They are sanctuaries on two feet, and the world needs them desperately.  If you’ve been around such people, you know what I’m saying.

People gravitate to where they feel safe, comfortable and cared for, and that includes where and with whom they worship and/or choose to be in relationship with. The converse is also true.  Church signs often say “All Are Welcome? Are all welcome or is that welcome conditional?  Local church greeters and each of us, individually, communicate both conditional and unconditional welcome.  Our smiles, extended hands, open hearts and genuine interest attract; our blank faces, frowns, grudgingly offered or withheld hands, and cursory interest don’t attract.

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GOD never has a “No Vacancy” sign in His Kingdom; we shouldn’t either.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2018. All rights reserved to text content.

 

5 thoughts on “All Are Welcome

  1. Shirley Goodman

    A good word, my friend. Imagine what would happen if everyone who professes to be a Christian lived as a sanctuary…

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  2. Andrea Wormley

    Wow….wow….wow, that was an awesome word Byron!! Soooo many need to see this message because I believe too many people are living outside of the church because they do not feel welcomed or are downright rejected once inside. What a contradiction of the meaning and reason for God’s house. How do we get more saints inside….?

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    1. Byron Hannon Post author

      Thanks Andrea. I think the “spirit of welcome” needs to be birthed (or rebirthed) and enflamed in each of us. If each of us makes it a free will offering, then we will doing as Scripture commands, loving our neighbor as ourselves. B.

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