"Has not God chosen the poor int he world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?"
We pastors LOVE it when new visitors come to worship (at least those of us with churches small enough to recognize when a new person shows up!). First & foremost, it's the fact that someone else may be blessed through our worshiping together - whether or not they've been a Christian for a while or are at an earlier stage in their faith journey. Here at Aiea United Methodist Church, we have a large military population, and often military folk come with families... so that's also exciting - the chance for children & youth to become involved, too. Occasionally we have people who are already leaders come (military officers, business professionals, etc.). The opportunity for them to get involved in the leadership of the church is so exciting! And then sometimes an older "local couple" comes... and it's wonderful to see that they're still eager to be involved in a church family.
The author of James recognizes the "allure" of potential new members (aka "visitors") to churches. But s/he highlights a completely different demographic from what I've been thinking about. THE POOR! We have a tendency to get excited by people "with means" who visit. We roll out the red carpet and trip over ourselves to make them feel comfortable. But God gets excited about the poor coming to worship! Why? They are "rich in faith" and "heirs of the kingdom." To think that they provide a perspective that we so desperately need - that might change the way we think about them!
PRAYER: "O God, help us open wide our arms of welcome to any and all poor who enter our sanctuary (or church). Rather than feel condescending and superior, help us to recognize the deep faith & conviction to Your kingdom that they bring. And forgive our arrogance & favoritism. AMEN."