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Should You Welcome Visitors at Church
Good News Magazine
September 1962
Volume: Vol XI, No. 9
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Should You Welcome Visitors at Church
Herbert W Armstrong   
Church of God

Born: July 31, 1892
Died: January 16, 1986
Member Since: 1928
Ordained: 1931
Office: Apostle

Herbert W. Armstrong founded the Worldwide Church of God in the late 1930s, as well as Ambassador College in 1946, and was an early pioneer of radio and tele-evangelism, originally taking to the airwaves in the 1930s from Eugene, Oregon.

Some members still do not understand about inviting, or welcoming, visitors to our Church services or bringing NON-members to the FEAST OF TABERNACLES.

   RECENTLY a non-member came as a visitor with a member to the Sabbath service of one of God's Churches. The visitor was a neighbor of the member.
   At the close of the service, another member took it upon himself to speak to the visitor, and, it was reported to me, in a not too friendly tone, tell him not to come again! Naturally the visitor was hurt and offended
   I do not have all the details. It could be, I suppose, that the visitor was hostile to the sermon and showing a wrong spirit but even so the proper conduct for a member would be to keep friendly, and call the minister or an elder. I do not know whether the member who brought this visitor had asked his neighbor to come, or whether the neighbor had asked if he might attend. It was reported. however, that the visitor was a radio listener perhaps a reader of The Plain Truth and supposedly "interested."

IMPORTANT You Understand

   I had thought that all members understood the Biblical teaching on this point, and our church policy based on it and how, and why, this policy differs from the practise of the churches of the world.
   However, when we realize our membership is increasing at the phenomenal rate of 30% a year doubling each 2 years and 7 months it becomes apparent that many of you have come in since this policy was last explained.
   It is IMPORTANT that every member understand.

The Worldly Custom

   It is the custom of the churches of this world to invite the public to come in and "worship" with them. Often you see signs on church buildings: "Strangers Welcome." Driving your car through the main street of a town on a highway, you invariably will see signs pointing to a church a block or two to the right or left inviting visitors.
   If it is a fundamentalist evangelical type church, its members will urge friends, relatives, and strangers to attend. This is their way but not God's way of "going into all the world to preach the Gospel." Instead of going to the world, as Jesus commanded, they invite and urge the world to come to them. They think their church services are the places to "get people interested," or to "get them saved."
   First of all, it is very important that our members realize just how almost all people, outside the few of us in God's true Church, look at this. You need to know, and understand, how THEY FEEL, and how they are going to react toward us.
   Since the custom taken for granted by them is to urge the public to attend regular church services since it is CUSTOMARY to "make strangers WELCOME," most people will take offense if we do not invite them, and make them welcome that is, if they know we have a Church.
   If a non-member does, for any reason, happen to visit one of our services and does not receive a warm and friendly welcome, can't you see he will feel offended? He will go away saying, "They certainly are a cold, unfriendly group"; or, "So I'm not good enough for them, huh?" or, "I guess I can take a hint I'm not wanted, there!" Or, "Well, I sure don't want any of their brand of religion! "
   The established custom of the worlds churches says, in effect, "World, come and fellowship with us. We WELCOME the fellowship of the world." Of course they do not realize God's Word says: "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God."
   But REMEMBER to the natural, unconverted mind, this worldly custom SEEMS RIGHT. And if a stranger does come to one of our services and receive a "cold shoulder" he will certainly think we are WRONG.
   THEREFORE WE NEED TO KNOW, not only about God's Way for our own services, but also HOW TO TREAT THE OCCASIONAL STRANGER IN OUR MIDST. So read every word carefully.

How We Are DIFFERENT

   Right here is a basic, fundamental difference between God's Church and the worldly churches between the BIBLE way, and the paganized so-called "Christian" way.
   First, Christ's Great Commission is to take the Gospel to the world "Go YE," He said. Have you ever noticed that nearly all of God's churches have to assemble in rented halls, while nearly all professing Christian churches of the world have their own church buildings? Even a small local church of no more than 35 to 75 in regular attendance will have its own church building. God's Church, obeying Christ's command explicitly, goes to the world by radio and the printing press. This costs money a lot of money, now that we reach people on every continent, world-wide.
   We, therefore, use God's money God's way in the purchase of facilities for the mass spreading of the Gospel around the world. So far, we have not been able to do both this and build local auditoriums for meetings.
   But the churches of the world do the exact opposite of what Christ commanded. Instead of going to the world, they invite the world to come to them. Thus their "churches" provide the place for the world to come, to hear their various gospels. They spend their money on local church buildings and ornate cathedrals.
   Secondly, they regard these buildings as their churches. In their language, the people including the invited strangers of the world go to the CHURCH. To them the CHURCH is the building. They call the building "the church." But the Bible calls the people the Church that is, the people who have been begotten by God's Spirit. In Gods true way, the CHURCH goes to the building, the rented hall, or the auditorium. In the world's way, the PEOPLE go to the CHURCH. See how the world turns God's Holy Word completely upside down?

God's True Way

   Now I would like for every member of God's true Church to notice carefully:
   The second primary function of God's Church is to feed its members on the true spiritual food, and to protect them. The Church is called "Jerusalem above" the MOTHER of us all that is, of all God has begotten into His Church.
   Just as the physical human mother protects her unborn child from physical harm, and just as it receives the physical nourishment by which it grows to be born through its mother, so with the spiritual children in God's Church. For this purpose God has set in the Church apostles, evangelists, pastors, elders, deacons and deaconesses, to feed and protect the Church.
   But, once converted, we are commanded not to be conformed to this world, but to come out from among them of this world, and to BE SEPARATE.
   We are co be no longer OF the world, although we must live in it, and have certain contacts with it in going to it with Christ's Gospel. But we are forbidden to have Christian fellowship with the world. "For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?" (II Cor. 6:14.) Again, "Ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (I Cor. 1:9), and "truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with the Son Jesus Christ" and again, "if we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth" (I John 1:3, 6).
   Consequently, God's Church is called to a separate fellowship NOT fellowship with the world, but with God and with Jesus Christ and with one another only through them. For our worship services, therefore, God calls us to BE SEPARATE from the world.
   The world talks about worshipping God "according to the dictates of your own conscience." But God will not accept that kind of worship. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth" (John 4:24). You cannot worship Him "in Spirit" unless you have been converted, and received His Spirit. And God gives His Holy Spirit only to them that OBEY HIM (Acts 5:32). To worship Him "IN TRUTH" means according to the Bible since Jesus said "THY WORD IS TRUTH."
   Of the world's worship, Jesus said plainly: "IN VAIN do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men... making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:7-8, 13).

Never Unfriendly

   Now it becomes very evident WHY we must not according to BIBLE TEACHINGS invite the world to the services of God's Churches.
   It is not only that they, being as yet unjoined to the Father and to Christ through real conversion, could have no true fellowship with God nor with us not only that we must "come out from among them and be separate" but our own Church services might offend, and therefore harm them or prevent their later conversion!
   Neither Garner Ted Armstrong nor I preach the same kind of sermons TO THE WORLD, on the air, that we do before our own congregations at Pasadena, or Chicago, or London, or the Feast of Tabernacles. The sermons of God's ministers before our own members are not evangelistic! In our own congregations we are not trying to get worldly people converted we are not preaching to the world we are trying to feed on the deeper truths those already converted!
   We do not write the same kind of articles for The Plain Truth we do for The Good News. The PI& Truth is written for the WORLD! Its purpose is to proclaim Christ's Gospel TO THE WORLD, as a witness. As an example, you will NEVER see an article like this one in The Plain Truth! This is written for you CHURCH MEMBERS whom God has already baptized by His Spirit into Christ's Body, the Church!
   The sermons at our regular Church Services AND AT THE ANNUAL FESTIVALS are entirely too strong for the unconverted of the world! They would only prove a stumbling block. They would offend.
   BUT in spite of all this, a nonmember visitor does occasionally attend. What should then be our attitude?
   NEVER should it be UNFRIENDLY! ALWAYS, once a visitor has come, be warm in greeting, cordial and friendly. NEVER make one feel unwelcome. Would that be obeying God's Commandment to LOVE our neighbors as ourselves?
   This is a delicate matter, and great tact needs to be used. So NOTICE CAREFULLY how to follow God's way in this.

The Church Policy

   We DO NOT, ever, want to offend or cause hostility if we can avoid it.
   Therefore, the lay members should LEAVE IT TO THE MINISTERS to know whom to invite to attend, and when. NEVER invite anyone not yet a member to attend either a Church service or an annual Festival or Holy day. On the other hand, be careful NEVER to directly forbid an interested friend to come that is, NEVER OFFEND others or make them feel unwelcome. Never give the impression we are "high hat" or "too good for them" or a sort of EXCLUSIVE set. If you tell a friend or neighbor NOT to come or if undiplomatically you say "we are told never to invite outsiders," what are such people going to think? In their thinking ALL churches are supposed to be friendly and welcome visitors. So immediately they would suppose THE REASON we do not invite them is because we feel better than they that they are not good enough to come with us or we are "high hat."
   Try to remember HOW THEY THINK and how your answer will seem to them! They do not UNDERSTAND the Bible teaching on this point so they will not understand WHY you don't make them welcome, and may be offended.
   Always, if you can, let a minister handle such a situation.
   Yet many difficult situations may arise. In many cases, many of you are persecuted by your neighbors. They may call you "Jewish" if they know you keep the Sabbath.
   First of all, it is better if you do nothing to advertise the fact that you keep God's Sabbath. I do not mean that you should ever deny it. But, for example, if you women make Sunday your wash day and hang out clothes for neighbors to see or, if you men do work around the house on Sunday, mowing the lawn, or pounding nails or sawing or something that makes noise. Whether this really causes your neighbors any discomfort or not, some of them may claim you are annoying them creating a NUISANCE on their Sunday. That only shouts loudly at them that you are a hated "Sabbath-keeper." You may reason that Sunday is the only convenient day to do such things but where there's a WILL, there's a WAY, and you can find a way to avoid antagonizing neighbors on Sunday. You CAN! so be sure you do!
   At Headquarters, all our neighbors adjoining the campus, of course, learned long ago that we keep the Sabbath. For years the Sabbath services were held there. And it does become necessary for some of our work crews to do various kinds of work on Sundays even carpenter work. But we restrain our men from making loud noises until after 10 a.m. on Sundays, to avoid disturbing neighbors who might be sleeping late. We have always tried to go out of our way as far as possible to be considerate of our neighbors.

A Few Examples

   But suppose you have a neighbor who knows you keep the Sabbath, and is not hostile. Perhaps this neighbor will mention some day that he (or she) has heard the broadcast several times, and asks you to explain a question about the Sabbath why we don't observe Sunday, or hasn't time been lost? or isn't the law done away or some other question. What should you do?
   Unless you know that you thoroughly know the subject, and have the ability to explain it plainly and convincingly, it would be better to hand the neighbor a booklet or booklets that explain the subject. If you don't have one to spare, explain that you will write our office and have one mailed to the neighbor at once. Tell your neighbor that this booklet will explain it so much better than you could.
   In case you do feel qualified to explain it yourself (as you should be though most of you are not), follow this method: First, ask the neighbor into your home, or go yourself to his. Have your Bible. When seated quietly, free from interruption, open your Bible, turning to proper Scriptures one at a time. Instead of reading it yourself, hand the Bible to your friend and have him read aloud each passage. Then you carefully explain and expound it, and turn to the next passage and have your neighbor read that, and so on.
   If your friend does not know we have a local church congregation, avoid all mention of it.
   But, suppose your friend does know, or asks you directly whether we have a Church. You cannot refuse to answer. You cannot lie. So here is where you must use real tact! Don't hesitate. Don't apologize. Immediately answer, "We don't have PUBLIC church services or any local church that is, we don't have a local building called a 'church' but we do have our own meeting on the Sabbath may I ask our minister to call and explain that to you?"
   Try, immediately, to get your friend to agree to let the minister call. BUT NEVER TELL YOUR FRIEND THAT VISITORS ARE NOT WELCOME. Just try, tactfully, to AVOID inviting, if you can.
   Now, suppose all this fails. Suppose the friend refuses the minister's call, and asks again if he (or she) may visit your church meeting? Should you, then, refuse, or say, "No, visitors are not welcome" or "we never invite visitors"? NEVER! Never insult or offend your neighbor. Of course, if the neighbor is hostile and offensive, and is demanding that he come, for the pure purpose of causing trouble, then you must insist politely that it be taken up with the minister then, whether the neighbor objects or not, call your minister and inform him of all the facts, and ask if he cannot call at once. He will know how to handle the situation.
   But suppose the friend is not hostile, but is friendly, doesn't want the minister to call, but does want to visit the church service with you? If it comes to this, then perhaps you cannot should not refuse. BUT, even in this last-resort situation, do not agree without also EXPLAINING. And how should you explain?
   Try to make it plain something like this: Explain that, first of all, we go by the Bible. Explain how the Bible commands us to go to the world with the Gospel but to be SEPARATE, by ourselves, in our own worship services. Explain that so far as WE are concerned, visitors most certainly are WELCOME but we try to obey the Bible by meeting SEPARATELY, BY OURSELVES and that often our ministers preach Scriptures before our own congregations that do reprove and rebuke the audience, and we are not sure whether visitors might not take offense, and we surely don't want to offend anyone but our ministers DO preach pretty strong sermons.
   Now, after that much explanation, if your neighbor is friendly and still wants to come, you have prepared the visitor's mind to expect pretty strong preaching, and explained that it is not intended to cause offense. That is the best you can do. BUT in such a case, be sure you telephone your pastor before the Sabbath service, and explain, so he will immediately come to be introduced to your visitor before the service and from there on, just let your pastor handle it. Continue to be friendly in every way introduce your visitor to several friends, so that we do, in every way, show the visitor we are friendly.

If You Meet a Visitor

   But suppose that although you, yourself, did not bring a visitor, another member does. You merely see a visitor there for the first time. WHAT SHOULD YOU Do? walk away, aid avoid meeting the visitor? NO! Go up, introduce yourself with a smile BE FRIENDLY make the visitor feel welcome!
   But someone in every church is sure to go to the opposite extreme. Often we seem to have a member who will rush up to the visitor, introduce himself profusely, and immediately start EXPLAINING THE BIBLE to the visitor, or getting into a religious discussion. But DON'T!!! Never do this!!! To the one who does this, let me say candidly, this is one strong reason why YOU are not the minister! It is the minister's place to do any explaining. He has been trained to know how. God has called him, and therefore the Holy Spirit leads and guides him. DON'T TRY TO MAKE YOURSELF THE MINISTER, or the minister may rebuke you very strongly!!
   You who meet a visitor at church service, just be friendly, smile, but do not start a conversation about the sermon, about religion, or about the Bible. If the visitor asks about such things, call the minister or assistant or a deacon at once, with a smile, introduce him and mention the question then let him take over, and excuse yourself to go meet and shake hands with others. And when introduced to or introducing yourself to a visitor, NEVER and I mean NEVER take it on yourself to either say "Don't you ever come again!" or, the opposite extreme, "I want to invite you to come again."
   REMEMBER it is not your place but the minister's to invite visitors either to come again, or to forbid them to come. Don't try to be a self-appointed minister when God has never called you! God may deal with you through the minister, if you do!

At Feast of Tabernacles

   After the last Feast of Tabernacles, one woman member wrote that her nonmember husband had attended with her. He had been somewhat "interested" before attending, but at Gladewater he saw a few things which he completely misunderstood no one knew about it to explain the true facts to him and "that finished him." He was completely turned against us. He was "disgusted." It came to my attention, and I tried to explain the true facts which he did not understand, and which should have caused no offense whatsoever. But once a natural-minded person becomes embittered, his mind is seldom any longer open to facts! He believes what he has decided he wants to believe!
   I am sure that this situation has occurred many times. Many of you have husbands or wives, as the case may be who are not members. Some of them are hostile. If they are, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should they come to the Feast of Tabernacles, or any of God's holy Festivals. They will only find fault. Whatever they hear, they will disagree. Whatever they see, will be sure to be WRONG, as they will paint it. Some such husbands have brought their wives, left them at the Tabernacle grounds, then driving back to pick the wives up and take them home when the Feast is over. This, of course, is perfectly all right.
   If you are a wife, and the only way you can come is to have your antagonistic husband bring you, then DON'T COME! And I am thinking of HIM not the welfare of the Church. The Church of God will go right on and on and keep GROWING, regardless, because it is empowered by the SPIRIT OF GOD. But it will make your husband unhappy. He won't enjoy it. He will see and hear only that which will appear WRONG to him.
   If you are a husband, and your wife is antagonistic against the Church and its doctrines and practises, DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow your wife to attend. If you are a man, be a MAN! God made you the head of your wife. God commands you to come. Therefore you must come, yourself! You must obey GOD. But you must, if necessary, make your wife obey you and stay home. If she threatens to leave you, you may have to decide between her and God. Will you obey her, or. will you obey GOD? Your ETERNITY may be determined by your decision.
   Anyway, regardless of tantrums and threats, I don't know of any wife who wants her husband to be a MOUSE, instead of a MAN! If you haven't been a MAN before, and ruled your own household as God commands, it's time to start! But be kind, not domineering. Remember, although many won't admit it, every woman, by nature, wants to be DOMINATED by a MAN! But never domineered! There's a tremendous difference. God teaches every husband to LOVE his wife to be kind and considerate, yet to be firm, and to dominate, when necessary!
   Let me tell you a little personal experience about one of God's ministers. Like many others, both this minister and his wife were Ambassador College students. This particular wife was one of our very finest girl students a leader among girls. A few years after their marriage, I asked her, in a spirit of humor, and with a smile, whether she had ever succumbed to temptation and tried to "wear the pants."
   She grinned. "Yes, I did, once," she replied.
   "And," I pursued, "did you find out who was boss?"
   Her eyes gleamed with pride. "Are you telling me!" she replied.
   This young woman is a very competent minister's wife, and an efficient mother. But she could never hold her husband in the high esteem and respect that she does if she could dominate him. Thousands of people hold this particular minister in very high esteem and respect but I assure you that, if he did not have the strength of character to obey God in being the head of his wife and family, he would not hold this high honor in God's Church that he does.
   If your wife is so unreasonable and bitter that she really leaves you for obeying God, then read and obey I Cor. 7:10-15. Let her leave. Such an ending is a tragedy but if you have obeyed God's instruction, in love and consideration, and cannot prevent it, it is the least of the evils.
   But those of you who have the wife of your youth, who believes, and obeys God, and is with you in God's Truth, have MUCH to be thankful for as I have, in the lovely woman who has been my wife for over 45 years! Yes, this is the greatest material blessing God has lavished on me!
   WHAT a blessing is a loving and competent minister's wife! One of the PROOFS that this is GOD'S CHURCH is the fact that every minister is blessed with a wife who is a REAL HELP!
   But to you husbands with unbelieving wives, I say, BE CAREFUL never to give your wife any just cause for recrimination!

Unconverted Mates

   Many of our members have mates who are unconverted or members of another church. Some of these are hostile some are not.
   But to all married members whose wives or husbands are not in the Church, I say with emphasis try to avoid causing antagonism.! In entirely too many cases, all this bitter strife and hostility has actually been cawed, unthinkingly, by our member. And how? BY TRYING TO EXPLAIN THE BIBLE, Or to get the other converted, or to talk! about religion or our religious beliefs!
   DON'T DO THIS!! NEVER DO THIS!!!!
   Never try to explain any doctrines or beliefs, UNLESS your wife or husband is friendly, open-minded, and in such an attitude asks you to explain. Even then, make the talk loving kind and watch to see when your mate begins to lose interest or become tired and STOP the subject, or change the subject, at that point as soon as possible.
   Remember your husband or wife has just as much right to his or her religion as you have to yours! God made each of us a free moral agent. Each must make his own decision! And one thing you CANNOT DO you cannot argue or talk anyone into seeing, or accepting God's Truth, or being converted.
   TALK TO GOD about your unconverted mate, in prayer never to the mate, except when asked in a good spirit. Intercede for them in PRAYER! NONE can come to Jesus Christ, unless the Spirit of the Father draws him. Your arguments can't draw him only GOD'S SPIRIT can.
   Now suppose you are a man with a hostile wife. When one of the annual festivals comes up, use all the tact you possibly can. PRAY over it. Ask God to give you wisdom, to say the right things to her. Try to be kind, considerate, loving. REALIZE that she probably is entirely sincere in being unable to see what you see. If God hasn't called her, she can't help that! Try to explain, kindly, that you give her the full right to her own religious views and actions and that you have the same right to yours. As you are not going to allow her to interfere with your obeying God and attending His Festival, you allow her the same freedom of religion you demand for yourself. Marriage is a physical union, not a spiritual one. You can be ONE FLESH, as God joined you to be together, in love and mutual tolerance, without religious INTOLERANCE.
   Do all in your power to preserve your marriage in LOVE, in tolerant consideration for HER. Still, be FIRM yes, calmly, but 100% determinedly firm in obeying God rather than any human, and in being head of your wife and family. However, bear in mind that God makes you the head of your wife in the human and fleshly sense you are ONE FLESH, not one spirit. You are NOT head over her in her religion.
   Do not argue religion. Do not try to talk her into God's Truth you can't. Just don't mention the subject. So far as possible, God teaches, be at peace with all people.
   Now, finally, remember never try to talk ANYONE into salvation, God's Truth, Bible doctrines, or being converted. So far as non-member friends and neighbors are concerned, just try to avoid all mention of our church services. Try to keep the subject from coming up. It is better if they do not even know about our services then there is no embarrassment about not inviting them to attend.
   Try to prevent non-members from seeing, or knowing about, The Good News. But NEVER do as one member untactfully did. This woman had read in The Good News that this paper is for Church members ONLY. The paper was left out in plain sight in her living room. A neighbor picked it up, started reading it. She grabbed the copy out of her neighbor's hand, saying "Oh, we've been told not to let outsiders read this. You're not converted. You're not allowed to read this." Naturally the friend was insulted, offended, and decided she didn't want any of OUR religion!
   If a non-member accidentally does see a copy of this paper, DON'T offend by telling them non-members are not allowed to read it. It is then too late for that. Let them go on reading it, but if they want on the list, tell them they can write and ask, but it is just our own Church paper for members, and not generally sent to non-members. But NEVER cause offense. Better just keep it out of sight in the first place.
   But in all things, show LOVE, kindness, consideration. Be friendly to people in the world, even though we must not be part of the world. Always try to avoid offense. GOD is LOVE. God is merciful, considerate, Compassionate. We must be!

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Good News MagazineSeptember 1962Vol XI, No. 9
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