The Unwanted Belong to God


"But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you - from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." (1 Peter 2:9-10 The Message)

I think we have all, at one time or another, desperately wished that the fellow believers in our churches would show us support in what we are going through. We have all read the uplifting words of Heb 3:13: "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness", and at some level, we long for such encouragement to be present in our home churches. Although our first goal for going to church should be to worship God with all of our heart, soul and being, we all long to experience the fellowship described in the New Testament.

Most of you will probably relate to the following illustration.

You enter a church for the first time. The person who greets you at the door seems genuine enough. You receive a nice handshake, maybe even a hug, and a church program, and you move into the sanctuary hoping that this same warmth will also be found on the inside.

The service starts off well with an uplifting praise and worship service, and you can feel yourself drawing closer to God, the One who makes a real difference in your life. After the announcements however, it seems that no one has time for you. A brief, "Hello, it's nice to see you!" Is all you hear while going to the washroom. When the service restarts with the sermon, the people around you don't seem to notice you at all. It doesn't matter however. As you listen to the sermon, you are blessed by the message. Maybe after the service someone will take note of you.

But it isn't to be. After the closing prayer, people around you gather into little groups and talk excitedly among themselves. You look around, but you are the only one being left out. You feel that this is somehow okay. After all, it is your first Sunday in this particular church and no one knows you. You decide to try and join in one of the groups. Maybe if they get to know you . . . But you realize that as soon as someone in the group notices your presence, their conversation ends abruptly. You smile and try to say something, and one of them nods their head, but their conversation has come to a dead end.

You decide to move on, and you can't help but notice that once away from the group, its enthusiasm is reignited. Then you see the guy who welcomed you to church. He seemed so friendly at the door. He approaches you now and makes some small talk, and you begin to think that maybe he really does care. But then someone comes and draws him into a lengthy conversation, one that leaves you completely on the outside.

You are getting discouraged, but you are determined to overcome it. You try again, a lady this time. She is outwardly friendly and willing to make small talk, but again, she zips away as soon as there is a break in the conversation to join a group of friends. You are left, once again, on the outside.

You leave church depressed, wondering if it's something you've done; but you persist anyway, figuring that once you are no longer a stranger, you will be accepted into one of their groups. After a year of indifference however, with the pastor himself only sporadically and briefly greeting you, you can't stop your feelings of rejection. Who would blame you for turning your back on that church for good?

Six weeks go by, and someone finally notices that you haven't been to church. They call you up and talk with your wife. Your wife says the conversation seemed to show genuine love, but you have to wonder why, if you mean so much now, why were you not welcomed when in their midst?

This is a sad story, but unfortunately a common one. And it is the reason why so many leave churches. They don't feel that they fit in. None of the cliques make room for them, and they wander away. Some continue to cling to Jesus and look for another church. Others reject God completely.

I have been facing a similar situation. When I left a legalistic church, God clearly told me which church to attend. I was fed in that church, but it was a very big church and it was hard to get to know people. We felt welcome enough however, in a "big church" sort of way, and we stayed.

But then my boys began to grow up (they never stop doing that, do they?) And they wanted to become more involved in church activities. Because this particular church was a good distance away, this just wasn't possible, and we started to pray about finding a local church.

After a bit of church hopping, we eventually decided on a local non-denominational congregation. My boys got caught up in the young people's activities right away and loved it, but the adults were not as quick to accept new people into their cliques. For an entire year I was greeted in the same way as in the above illustration, and I felt that I wasn't doing my boys justice in getting them involved in such a cliquish church.

Finally I brought my family to another church. There I was greeted with love. The sermons are Spirit-filled, and there are outstanding activities for the children. I feel the presence of God in their midst. But was this the church for me and my family?

After a few weeks of attending this new church, I received a message from God: "But in what I instruct [you] next I do not commend [you], because when you meet together, it is not for the better but for the worse. For in the first place, when you assemble as a congregation, I hear that there are cliques (divisions and factions) among you." (1 Cor 11:17-18 AMP)

I couldn't believe my eyes. As I reread this verse, I realized God was speaking about the old church, and I was overwhelmingly persuaded that I should continue to go to the new church.

If you feel unwanted, even despised in your church, don't give up. God is a God of the unwanted. He loves the despised. He loves you and will never reject you. He knows how it feels to be despised, and if you will let Him, He will lift you up. Come and pour your heart out to Him. But don't give up on church: "And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our meetings, as some habitually do . . ." (Heb 10:24,25) Instead, ask Him to direct you to the church He wants you to attend. He has a group of followers in your town who worship Him with all of their heart, who will also welcome you with open arms. He will guide you to them. He may do so instantly, or He may take His time. Whichever way He chooses, He will reveal how much He loves you!

Remember, a Christian congregation has to have the Bible as its guide. It needs to rely on God's Spirit for guidance. But it also must have an unearthly sense of brotherly love, where encouraging one another is the norm.

Remember Jesus' new commandment? "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV). Only by loving like Jesus loves us will we be light beams in this world. Only with this kind of love will we attract the unwanted to a place where they will feel wanted.

Cliques are deadly to any church and God hates them. However, God loves His church when they show genuine love towards each other. Remember: "There should be no division (or cliques) in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Cor 12:25-26 NIV)

No matter what, if you are God's child, you will be welcomed with open arms in His kingdom! God loves you, my friend. Find those in your midst who are madly in love with Him as well, and feel free to encourage one another.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." (Matt 5:4 NIV)

Rob Chaffart

P. S. You are welcome to be my friend any time!

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