The number one reason churches grow by people coming to Christ–as opposed to coming from another church–is if “the church attracts and keeps a higher percentage of unchurched” people?
I know, you’re saying, “Duh!”
It should surprise no one that the more at-bats a baseball player has the more hits he gets.
Then why are we not more welcoming to newcomers and the unchurched?
Maybe your church is an exception, but in reality, many church members consider their church friendly when in reality they are only friendly to one another.
Is your church gracious and inclusive of non-members?
Are you willing to accommodate your guests and show genuine hospitality?
To be clear, when I say “accommodate,” I am not suggesting we deny the gospel and minimize the word of God.
Accommodating guests in our services could include simple things like:
- Warmly welcoming someone who differs greatly from you
- Making room for them to find a place to sit
- Avoiding terms unfamiliar to those without a church background
- Welcoming them without making them feel singled out, pressured, or uncomfortable
- Getting to know them after the service and looking for a time to meet them for coffee or a mean?
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?
Suppose guests don’t dress as you do. Perhaps they can’t afford to dress the same or maybe they prefer casual attire. What if they don’t take their hats off when they come into the auditorium or worship center?
Many good people will say something like, “This is the house of God!” or “We should show respect!” or maybe, “We should give God our best!”
I get it.
A large part of my generation would be uncomfortable with someone who wears a hat indoors—especially at church. Honestly, I am too!
I see guys wearing baseball caps in restaurants and I wonder, “What’s up with that?” Don’t laugh, but I am so old school I still take my hat off when I enter Starbucks or even Walmart!
Newsflash! Our traditions and cultural norms are not necessarily universal, immutable biblical laws.
I had to realize people are more important than my personal standards of etiquette. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had a hard time with this.
I looked out into the crowd one Sunday morning and saw a young lady I had never seen before. She had bleached her hair blond. She had piercings in her ears, nose, lip, and tongue. Ink decorated her arms. And she was wearing tattered jeans with the stylistic tears around the knees.
To say she was different would be an understatement. We were like many “First Baptist” churches. Our people were well-to-do financially and our facilities were beautiful. The stained-glass windows were some of the nicest I had seen.
Despite looking different, I am thankful to say some of our members gave her a warm welcome. My wife and I got to meet her after the service and planned when we could meet for lunch.
We contacted her during the week by phone and I mailed a handwritten card to her thanking her for coming.
The next Sunday, she was back.
She received another warm welcome and at the close of the service, she came to talk to one of us. During a time of prayer, she asked God to forgive her, save her, and she surrendered her life to Christ!
You can imagine how thrilled we were!
Standing at the front door of the church after the service she opened and told me her story. She was deeply grateful to God for forgiving her.
She told me before Christ saved her, she had been a prostitute and had an ongoing sexual relationship with another woman.
Her honesty took me back. I didn’t think less of her. I thought more of her for being so authentic in confessing and turning from her sin.
Then she said these words, “I was nervous about coming here. I knew I didn’t fit in. I didn’t know how I would be treated, but people were so nice!”
Oh, that’s not all…
Then she said, “When I saw you weren’t wearing a tie, I thought I might be OK.”
This precious woman was so different in appearance than everyone else and had been scared to even enter the doors of our church because of how she looked. But when she noticed the pastor wasn’t wearing a tie she didn’t feel as out of place!
I had no idea such a small thing could make a such a difference!
A few older members had given me some not-so-subtle hints I should always wear a tie in church. Frankly, I don’t mind wearing a tie. I’ve worn them for years and sometimes I even like to wear bow ties. But I felt I shouldn’t be so formal so the average person wouldn’t be uncomfortable.
Little did I know the difference it would make!
Because of the genuine concern of a few gracious members who showed her love (and a pastor without a tie), this woman stayed to hear the message and even came back the next Sunday to give her life to Christ!
Before we get too protective of our traditions, our dress codes, and our nice buildings I might suggest we think of what Jesus laid aside when He came to this earth.
End the end, what really matters? Only what matters to God.
Amazed by grace,