Like it or not, there are those who don't feel welcome or comfortable within the Church, or among Christians, in spite of their own preferences; they'd like to participate in church-life, and associate with Christ-followers, but they can't because of choices that we've made. They're excluded. The truth is that we've made "outsiders" of many people over the years. We've made outsiders of other denominations, of those whose backgrounds differ from ours, and of those with differing political viewpoints, just to list a few.
To clarify: we're not talking about church membership as the delineator of who's "in" and who's "out." We're talking about those who don't even feel welcome within a church building on a Sunday morning. Those whom we've judged as being heretical, or morally reprehensible, or politically unpalatable, or even simply "too different" to be welcome.
Theoretically, the church wants to welcome ALL people. The theory doesn't often line up with the reality. Somewhere around 53 A.D. the church in Jerusalem had a crisis brought on by a former "Pharisee of pharisees," and a well-meaning but impetuous brother. Some early Jewish Christians, who were concerned about maintaining the practice of the Mosaic purity laws, prevailed upon the apostle Peter to stop eating with the Gentile believers. The gentiles were "unclean" and eating with them would make Peter unclean too. Peter, who'd received a vision from God, proclaiming the unclean animals descending from heaven "clean"—a metaphor for the cleansing of the gentiles—gave in to those Jewish believers and stopped eating with the gentiles.
Paul, upon hearing this, "opposed Cephas to his face, because he stood condemned" (Gal. 2:11, ESV).
That was only the beginning. From there the church went on to ostracise, at various times, everyone: from those who had recanted their faith under persecution, and who then repented, to our present-day exclusion of those who believe differently on debatable doctrinal matters.
Certainly, we need to acknowledge that something is driving people away from church. Many surveys show that North Americans are no less religious than they were in the past, Statistics Canada states that from 1985 to 2005, the number of Canadians attending regular religious services decreased by roughly 10%, while the number of us that never went to religious services at all increased by roughly 10%.
Could it be that part of the reason for that swing (which is not a new trend) has to do with people not feeling welcome at church or among Christians?
If so, how do we change that? How do we make ALL people welcome in the same way that Jesus welcomed all people?