Does The Church Draw People Or Drive Them Away?

This Is A True Story. What Would Your Church Do?

After reading this: Do you think the church is more like a harlot or a bride?

She was in her mid-to-late twenties they thought. She walked into the sanctuary just as the congregation sang its last hymn before the message.  The back row offered her an obscure seat out of view of the congregation.  She could listen and remain unnoticed. She had pulled her hair up on her head into a neat bun on top. A pretty pink bow held her hair in place. Her pink striped dress appeared freshly pressed.

As the service ended and the congregation stood to sing a final hymn she slipped out the door at the rear of the sanctuary just as quietly as she slipped in.

She returned to the same church for several more weeks. Eventually one of the ladies of the church introduced herself and the pretty young visitor to a few of her friends.

The girl still remained somewhat distant, arrived just in time for the message, then slipped out the door without hanging around to chat or visit. One of the ladies of the church invited the young visitor to dinner on the ground the church was having the next week and she said she’d bring something, but she didn’t show up for church the next week.

Eventually the church ladies invited the young visitor to their women’s Bible study on Wednesday evening after the service. The church was a large, urban, Black Baptist church in an older, slowly deteriorating area of Atlanta, so many of its members commuted from the city’s suburbs to attend church.

The shy, attractive visitor attended the Bible study for several weeks, carrying a tattered King James Bible and following along, but never participating.

One Sunday after church, and after the young visitor left the building, one of the church ladies gathered several other church ladies together.  She told her friends that one of her friends who attended another Baptist church in the next block had seen the visitor walking out of the church a few Sundays before. The church lady said her friend told her that young woman was a prostitute her friend had seen standing on a corner a few blocks from the church.

The ladies of the church decided to have an ad hoc committee meeting to decide what they would do. They didn’t think it was necessary to invite the pastor to the meeting. They decided they didn’t think they wanted women of her “vocation” they called it, in their church. The next Sunday, when the pretty young visitor left church, the eldest church lady followed her out the door and broke the news. She said the church had decided that they didn’t want her kind of people coming to their church.

Before we get all self-righteous and Pharisaical with that “church” for its own sanctimonious behavior we need to be sure we know what our church would do in a similar situation.

What if you discovered there were prostitutes coming to your church? Or drug users? Or ex-convicts?

What would your church do? Do you know? Do you even care?

Sadly, I think lots of churches would react with disdain and condemnation, and not love. The tone would be, “Let’s get rid of her.” Not “Love One Another.” The church, in my view, looks down on folks who aren’t like them. Who come from different backgrounds. Who come into their presence with a semi-trailer full of sins. It’s just gall to think that some churches would look on a young woman who God made (and who is seeking to find Him) with condemnation. How shallow! How sinful. That’s not “Love one another“. It’s “Judge one another“.

Think for a minute. Examine yourself. And your church.  What would your personal response be to a young women wandering in off the streets, looking like a twenty-dollar hooker, to attend your church? If you usher, would you try to tuck her away in a back pew (with the rest of the Baptists  :>) )? If you spotted her as she walked in, would you greet her, welcome her, invite her to sit with you?

Unfortunately, many churches, in my opinion, would rather not have folks like her in their congregations, let alone invite one of “her kind” to become involved.  To those folks who would look down on her, I say to you that if Jesus were here, He would hang out with her. He would be drawn to her. She would be drawn to Him. He would call you hypocrites for your shameful, condescending behavior. Your holier-than-thou attitude will drive people away rather than draw them to Jesus.

So, which is it? Is the church more like a harlot? Or more like a bride?

Thank you, and may God richly bless you.

About Steve Sawyer

God blessed me with the gift of writing. Mom told me I wrote paragraphs in second grade when others were learning to write sentences. I spent more than three decades in professional writing gigs. For the past eight years I've combined my passion for writing with my love for the Lord. He and I write a Christ-centered, family-friendly blog to glorify God Monday-thru Friday at My wife and I have four grown children and two precious granddaughters we co-parent with their mom. I'm a Galatians 2:20 disciple of Christ seeking to allow Christ to live His life in me, through me, and as me.
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14 Responses to Does The Church Draw People Or Drive Them Away?

  1. How eye opening! Can I share a story. It’s funny, my predicament, I decided to return to my family church this past April because my mom kept “bugging me”. I’ve been attending a baptist church since my divorce 7 years ago. So, let me try to make it short here, I started attending the church I grew up in again with mom. I began attending noon day bible study and I taught VBS this past summer. They were hesitant to let me teach because I wasn’t a member….God’s still voice told me so because of their actions, and tried to leave me out of meeting dates. I NEVER let anyoen stop me from doing teh Lord’s will when I know it’s His will. The noon day bible study consisted of mostly elderly over 60. After the 2nd class, I felt like I had invaded their study, the pastor was acting nervous the first time I attended. Soooooooo, the next Sunday, most of them were really friendly, after they found out who my mother was, and had told me “we thought you were a little girl”. I told the one lady, I am 51 years old with grands and that I hope in the future, others are treated better and not because of a “thought” about their age appearance.
    Needless to say, we all get along now, even though the comment was nice, it was judgmental in my eyes. My thought was because you thought I was younger than I appeared, you all had to right to be snobby and distant with me. The pastor even sat down and told me during one of our conversations… “some people didn’t think you’d pull off teaching bible study” and were very “amazed and happy with how well you did”. I told him, I ws not there to please people, it ws to please the Lord. He mentioned that he received several comments on how well I did for the week long study. Well, by the grace of God and because I have a personal relationship with HIM, I showed them different. I know what gifts God has given me and it is to teach the elderly and the young. Anyway,I forgave and love them all. Then I remembered why I did not like that church as a child. It was full of judges and did not cater to children studies. 🙂

    • Please look over my spelling errors above! 🙂 Sometimes I have two left hands.

      • Steven Sawyer says:

        No problem about the spelling. I could understand exactly what you were talking about. And that’s all that matters. Thanks for your beautiful story and comments. I appreciate reading them. God bless and keep you.

    • Steven Sawyer says:

      Wonderful story. And I agree with you. This is the kind of judgmental attitude we find in a lot of churches today. I hope you are allowing God to work through you and serve Him in the way and the place He leads you to and not your mom or other people. God bless you in your journey.

    • Steven Sawyer says:

      I sent you a reply. Thank you and god bless you.

  2. 4hispraise says:

    What a healthy discussion. I suggest the conclusion that in referring to THE church is to say some churches..We can all cite instances where abberations occur and we paint them with that brush. Fortunately God is in charge of all the brushes.

    • Steven Sawyer says:

      Good thought about “some churches”. I’ll remember that when I write on that topic again.
      Thanks for the suggestion. And thanks for the good comments. God bless.

  3. writinggomer says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more, today’s Church wants only the people whose sins are hidden away safely where they will not disturb anyone.

  4. Newly New says:

    Fortunately, i attend a church that offers a place for people to come and address destructive lifestyles in a gospel-centric way. i would not attend if this were not available. There is a difficult balance between loving someone and condoning their lifestyle, but ultimately i believe we are called to err on the side of inclusion and allow the Spirit to work in people for change. Nevertheless, your larger point remains true that many churches feel they need to alienate those whose lifestyles are not in line with traditional values. Obviously this makes very little sense, for “the Son of God came to seek and save that which was lost,” and “it is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick,” and when we are honest i believe we will see that whatever our own sins may be, we are no different than those whom we reject. Thanks for the courageous and honest post.

  5. I am happy to say that the Church I attend would welcome her and draw her in to the family, but I think there would be a few who would steer clear. I would also have to say that there would be no compromise of standards. She would be accepted as she is, but she wouldn’t be accepted into a leadership role of any kind, and she would have a clear understanding of what we believe.

  6. Gosh, this is an important writing. It’s very well done and I hope many read it.

  7. ptl2010 says:

    Periodic reviews of our church and individual strategy and practices are necessary as we are to float against the natural tide to sin and destruction. Our instincts will take us with the flow of the worldy or religious and only the Holy Spirit can keep us on the course where Jesus wants us, in line with the Word and against the world..

  8. Amanda Beth says:

    Wow! I always remember Joyce Meyer saying that she led her first Bible study wearing short shorts and blowing smoke in everyone’s faces, and it was anointed. God looks at our hearts, not our outward appearances and actions. When God has our hearts, He can change our actions.
    I pray for that young lady. May God do marvelous works in and through her. Thanks for sharing this humbling story.
    God bless:)

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