Today I am off to a three-day conference for Baptist Ministers in the Eastern Baptist Association. It should be a good time of refreshing, sharing of ideas, chatting, eating and all the rest of the important things that happen. Oh yes, the main sessions look good too, being led by my old friend Viv O’Brien.
Going to this conference reminds me of an experience I had a while ago when I went to a conference centre when there was another Christian conference running at the same time. I knew one of the participants, who was running a stall in their ‘marketplace’ and he invited me to come over and see him during one of the breaks. As I was interested in the subject of that conference I gladly accepted the invitation and was happily looking over the different stalls (wallet in hand) when one of the leaders of that conference approached me and asked if I was a member of the conference.
I sheepishly admitted that I wasn’t and he started to ask me about why I was interested in their conference. He told me about their themes and what the organisation did. He listened to my interests related to the subject of his conference and finally he invited me to join them for a couple of sessions. Before I knew it lots of the members of the conference were chatting to me and invited me to rejoin their organisation. (I had been a member in the past but had let the membership lapse). What a great analogy of what church should be like.
Or at least it would be if that whole last paragraph wasn’t a complete fabrication. What actually happened was that the conference leader approached me and asked me to leave (politely) as I did not belong there. I left feeling unwanted and decided that I did not want to renew my membership of an organisation that was so unwelcoming. I hope that is not an analogy for churches!
So what sort of welcome will we get in heaven? An exasperated mother, whose son was always getting into mischief, finally asked him, “How do you expect to get into Heaven?”
The boy thought it over and said, “Well, I’ll just run in and out and in and out and keep slamming the door until St. Peter says, ‘For Heaven’s sake, Jimmy, come in or stay out!'”