If I may be honest and you promise not to think less of me, I would like to confess something to you all. As I wrote that sentence I could hear my wife saying, “Is this going to be painful?” No, it isn’t. I promise.
Here it is: I really like country clubs. As a pastor, I have had more than a few weddings in country clubs. In fact, my dad used to belong to a country club. Now, I wasn’t a member, but my last name and his membership number got me food and really good service at dinner time. If I played golf, I bet I would have been treated pretty well then as well.
There are also things I don’t like about country clubs. Country clubs are expensive. They are also exclusive. Some clubs do not have a membership application process. It is by invitation only. The members pick and choose who can join and who cannot. They also have a dress code.
I was officiating a wedding at a club and they required proper attire for dinner…actually any meal. Can you believe that blue jeans and t-shirts are not considered ‘proper attire?!’ I know, right?
So, it is a tenuous relationship I have with these wonderful and exclusive organizations. On one hand, I really like them and on the other I do not.
“Hey Dave, what does this have to do with church?” I’m glad you asked.
Here is the short version: The Church is not country club. The invitation to join is from Jesus Christ. There is no dress code and no dues. It is not exclusive or restrictive. The doors are open wide for all who are seeking life. That’s the Good News! God has sent an invitation and has opened the doors for all of us.
God keeps sending out invitations, too. When I turned 50, AARP started sending out membership information. I threw it out. Mostly because I think I am too young. I know, Denial is not a river in Egypt. Anyway, they wouldn’t take no for an answer, at least not right away. They kept and keep on sending me information. However, they eventually stopped. God does the same thing. Invitation after invitation after invitation. Unlike AARP, however, God keeps sending out invitations and will not quit, because God does not want you to miss out on the party.
The problem as I see it is that we have become kind of like a country club, we invite people in, but before they can join us, we tell them about the dues, the dress code, and let them know what is expected of them when they have to show up. We also let them know that they are not real members if the miss the weekly membership meetings or don’t read the membership book. On top of all of that, we talk about how great it is to be a member but we don’t even look like we are having fun.
Jesus is throwing a party and we are all invited. Everyone. In fact, you don’t even need to show your invitation at the door. Church is open! Y’all come! All y’all.
Don’t dress up or pretend. Just show up. The benefits of being in relationship with God through Jesus Christ is that we learn how to live life. We learn how to love God, ourselves, and others. We learn what steals life and what gives life.
I have no problem with Country Clubs being Country Clubs. What I have a problem with is a Church thinking and acting like a Country Club.