Exclusive or Inclusive?

So, Emily and I just finished watching The Social Network. Yes, I fully realize that we are way behind the times. However, to my defense, I did read the book The Accidental Billionaires, so watching the film wasn’t necessarily on the top of my list (being that I already knew what was going to happen…same reason I will NEVER watch the Titanic…I already know what will happen…seems like a waste of time…and the soundtrack is horrible).

While watching the film (as well as while reading the book), I was struck by the original intent of Facebook to be an exclusive endeavor. At first, it would be a “Harvard” thing. Then, as it became apparent that it was a popular success, it began to spread among the Ivy League schools. I remember when facebook first spread to school’s like Indiana University, Purdue University, Notre Dame, even Ball State University. Former youth ministry students would talk about the site…say things like, “Oh man, you should really get on facebook. But, you can’t because you’re old.” The exclusivity almost made it desirable…because I couldn’t have it…I wanted it.

Eventually, facebook’s exclusivity became an all-inclusive endeavor…to the point where old guys like me could log on and create an account…without an invite, without a particularly exclusive e-mail account. And, this social media website has been successful in helping people connect with friends…old, new, and everything in-between.

While thinking about the original exclusive nature of facebook and it’s now inclusive nature, I found myself thinking about the Church. Is the modern Church an exclusive or inclusive institution?

Now, the majority of folks within the Church would probably defend the Church as being inclusive…but is it?

As a United Methodist, I’m reminded of how we are called to have “open hearts, open minds, and open doors”. But, do we have limits to our openness?

Are we open to people who have different thoughts on heaven and hell…sin and salvation…human sexuality…creation…evolution…abortion…drinking…dancing…and all of the other hot button issues that are out there?

Many would say “yes”. But, are we open to those who are different only with the intention of “saving” them and making them “exactly like us”. Or do we simply accept them and love them “as is”?

I’m pretty sure when Jesus called us to “love others”, this was a statement promoting inclusiveness in the Body. If you investigate the life and ministry of Jesus, he seemed to continually reach out to those who would have been excluded from the fellowship and invited them in.

Sometimes, I’m convinced that our tendency to be exclusive is born out of either arrogance (that we have it all figured out) or ignorance (that we simply are too dull and dense to realize God just might work beyond our understanding). Sometimes, I wonder if we are trying to “save” people who aren’t really in need of saving (you know, like how my Baptist friend are always trying to save me because I’m a heathen Methodist)???

Are we attempting to include the excluded? Or are we trying to put up walls between “us” and “them”?

Are we exclusive or inclusive? If we are exclusive, why? If we are exclusive, how can we become inclusive? Are there limits to inclusiveness?

 “37 He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself’.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

One thought on “Exclusive or Inclusive?

  1. At the risk of this comment being “excluded”, I’d like to submit that the questions you raise are exactly what the “Joel” group is wrestling with. Questions like inward or outward focus, perceptions, cliques, openness, hospitality, and honesty are tough and complex issues. Breaking the stigma of the church being a “inexpensive country club” and relevant to multiple generations is at the core of “open hearts, open minds”.
    Although not a perfect approach, at least some denominations are attempting to tackle some of these issues. I’m glad to be on your team.

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