The Word: Church is meant to be welcoming

Published 1:00 pm Thursday, January 4, 2024

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The Word

Rev. J. Cameron Bailey

Ahhhhh…the new year has begun. Last weeks devo challenged us to make God our top priority. Imagine the difference followers of Jesus could make in 2024 if we truly loved and served like Jesus? 

Let’s build off this AMAZINGLY gorgeous concept this week too. Christian author, Philip Yancey has written numerous books like, The Jesus I Never Knew, and, What’s So Amazing About Grace, and many more. He tells of a conversation held with an alcoholic friend of his where his friend told him: “When I’m late to church, people turn around and stare at me with frowns of disapproval. I get the clear message that I’m not as responsible as they are. When I’m late to AA, the meeting comes to a halt and everyone jumps up to hug and welcome me. They realize that my lateness may be a sign that I almost didn’t make it. When I show up, it proves that my desperate need for them won out over my desperate need for alcohol.” 

Think about that for a moment and answer this: What if we…the church…the followers of Jesus…welcomed with open arms and were as receiving as those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous. If we truly make Jesus our top priority this year… then that means we make HIS focus our focus. What was HIS focus? People. Jesus ate with sinners. Jesus hung out with the less desirable. Sadly, most churches across America….the places where love should be poured… the places where we should stop and hug the ones who come in late, who come in smelling like alcohol, who come in looking distraught and disheveled are the exact ones Jesus would have paused to reach out with a loving embrace. Don’t believe this? Then re-read those gospels again. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, John we see story after story of him pausing to heal folks whose friends lowered through a roof, who he meets at the well in the hottest part of the day to talk with the lady who ain’t been living a prim and proper life, to invite that “wee little man” to climb down and go have a talk at this house, to let that former wild living lady to wash his feet with perfumes and dry them with her hair, to stop on the road and shout “Who touched me” when a person in need simply touches the hem of HIS robe, and on and on we can go. Jesus would have lead the AA meeting and would have stopped the meeting to hug the one who came in late. Stop looking with disgust… start loving like Jesus. Make HIM our top priority in 2024. 

Rev. J. Cameron Bailey is pastor of Kenbridge Christian Church. He can be reached at