We begin 2019 with a new series about being a welcoming church written by OPC Pastor Shane Lems. Shane is the pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Hammond, Wisconsin. He and his wife, Lisa, have 4 kids. Prior to ministry, Shane was in the US Army Reserves for 6 years and worked in the auto parts industry. He is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California, and was a church planter in the URCNA in Sunnyside, WA.
In this series of posts, Shane will be discussing the idea of being a welcoming church from different perspectives. We asked Shane why the particular interest in this topic:
“I’ve thought about this topic since I was a church planter in 2007. I wanted to be sure when a visitor came, they weren’t ignored! I have always thought that solid theology should result in love towards others, which can be shown in a church context. I also have been to churches that are not very welcoming, and it was really discouraging. On the other hand, I’ve been to churches that are welcoming – and have experienced how edifying that can be. Through church planting, biblical study, and experience, I’ve come to be convinced that we need to be welcoming!”
Before we post Shane’s articles in the coming weeks, we thought it may be helpful to give a brief taste of what you can expect. Shane will look at the topic of being a welcoming church from three angles: the church in general, the pastor, and the congregation. He is clear about his goal in these posts:
“My main point in these articles is this: when it comes to being a welcoming church, we need to seek a biblical and balanced perspective with a missionary bent. From a Reformed point of view, we of course want to think biblically about this topic. And we want to avoid extremes and stay balanced. Finally, we need to have the perspective of missions: preaching Christ to the nations.”
A taste of Shane’s thoughts on being biblical…
“In fact, we might even think of Paul’s words: let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor (1 Cor. 10:24). When a visitor shares a pew with us on Sunday, we should seek his or her good by being kind, saying hello, and putting Christian love on display. And, of course, Christian love does not discriminate or show partiality (James 2:1-6). Whether rich or poor, male or female, African or Asian, sharply dressed or poorly dressed, politically liberal or conservative, the Christian way is to show love to the neighbor who comes to worship.”
“While seeking to be biblical in welcoming visitors, we also want to use wisdom and aim for a balanced perspective. Scripture’s call about loving our neighbor cannot be ignored. At the same time, “being a welcoming church” should not become a fourth mark of the church, along with preaching, the sacraments, and discipline. This is to aim for the middle: we don’t want to be completely unconcerned about being welcoming, but we also don’t want “welcoming” to be the central issue in a church’s life.”
And a missionary bent…
“When I was a church planter, I necessarily had a “church plant mentality.” A church planting mentality means many things, but it certainly means that you think about getting the gospel out to the neighbors and neighborhoods around the church. It’s a missionary mindset. A church plant mentality also means when visitors come to the church plant, you go out of your way to welcome them. Although I’m no longer a church planter, I still think all churches and pastors should have a church plant mentality: we want to get the gospel out and we want people to come to Christ and join our Christian fellowship. Both established churches and church plants should have the same attitude about evangelism, outreach, and visitors in worship.”
There is much more to come and some serious unpacking of these ideas. We hope this gets you thinking and whets your appetite for this series. We appreciate Shane’s thoughtful and careful approach to this topic and expect it to be a great blessing.