As you welcome new people to church, one (of the many) things to be aware of is how willing they are to join church on church’s terms or on their own terms.
The person who comes to church on their own terms is the one who is overly wary of filling in a feedback form, overly cautious about being invited to a lunch, overly suspicious about being invited to think about joining a group. They aren’t willing to be part of the church family on the church family terms. They want to work out their own unique way of being part of it… or not being part of it. This CAN be for good reasons, however it’s sadly usually because they think themselves too important to ever do what normal people do. They think they need special treatment. Ironically, they do… They especially need to be encouraged to repent of pride.
On the other hand, other people come to church on church’s terms. They are willing to be led by the hand and helped into church, into the church family.
Churches seems to have such a quandary about saying no to advertising things out the front. Its hard when someone runs up to you and says they need, really really need to you advertise their thing today!!! When the reality is that, if you said yes to everyone, you’d have no time for bible, singing or sermon. There’s just so much that goes on that legitimate church stuff, let alone the other things. I’ve had one guy come up to me 5 mins before a meeting and insist they get up and invite people to join their soccer team!
So, rather than just avoiding those people so they can’t ask you, have a clear basis for why you advertise things… here’s ours (courtesy of our brilliant Magnification Pastor – that means he cares more about making meetings good environments for hearing and responding to God – Pete Witt).
Only things that tick all three boxes:
- They affect a huge number of people (at least over half)
- They are significantly urgent
- They are closely aligned to your visions and values as a church.
If it hits all three, go for it. It’s worth advertising.
Don’t pretend you don’t know what’s going on. Don’t make out like that interview answer surprised you. Don’t act like you’re being spontaneous when you’ve planned it all out.
First, because unless you’re a trained, seasoned actor… You suck at it. It’s SOOO obvious that your pretending… It’s embarrassing. Embarrassing for you, and for your audience.
Second, why are you doing it at all? Before you ask me why you shouldn’t do it, I’d really like to hear you explain why you think the best way to communicate something (which you obviously think is very important) is by pretending its so unimportant that you didn’t plan what your going to say?
You see, the method of communication communicates MORE than the content of the communication. By acting like you’ve made it up on the spot, you’re communicating that it’s not very important to you, and thus it shouldn’t be important to me.
At one level, this shouldn’t be a hard question… surely you design your meetings for the people who are meeting with you.
So, since the meeting is for everyone – especially Christians (see the last post) – you have to think about the different types of people in the room, and there’s really only two types of people: people who are not Christians who need to hear the gospel, and people who are Christians who need to hear the gospel.
So proclaim the gospel. Proclaim it in the welcome, in the songs, in the reading, in the sermon, in the prayers, in the invitation to hang around for supper. Christian or not, they need to hear it and be reminded of it.
But, since the gospel is the power to save from God’s eternal wrath, there’s a right priority to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the non-Christian in the room. Don’t do everything for them, but don’t ignore them as though they’re not meant to be there… they are meant to be there! They just don’t know it yet.
This is a question that seems to cause grumbling, but that’s usually because those discussing it haven’t defined their terms, and the preposition “for” is very slippery. As such, these are all true…
- Church is for everyone!
It’s a gathering to sit under and respond to the word of the living and true God. The God of the universe. When Jesus comes back and raises everyone from the dead, they’re all going to be gathered (churched) around him and respond Philippians 2 style. So they should be in local churches now too.
- Church is for Christians!
This is a true, although narrow, use of the term “for”. Technically, church “is” Christians. Church is the family/community/flock-of-an-under-shepherd gathering of those who hear and respond to Jesus as Lord. It’s a Christian “thing”, so yeah, it’s for them by the simple fact it is them.
- Church is for Christian encouragement and perseverance!
This takes the previous point and gives it some flesh. If church is the gathering of those under Christ, then that gathering should support and equip those very ones to remain in Christ, in a fully Heb 3:13 way. In other words, if you’re going to get people together who exist on the basis of Jesus’ words, REMIND THEM to keep going!!
- Church is for gospel proclamation
See, this is really the common thread. The gospel is a message of the global king. Its content describes its extent. It’s a message for everyone, especially those who have already believed it.
So, if church is for everyone, especially Christians… how should you design your meetings?
Desert-island theology is when you try to reduce a theological question down to its basic elements. This can be a really helpful activity for thinking clearly, however it need to be taken back into context. Some examples:
What is marriage? Well, if a single guy and single girl found themselves stranded on a desert island, couldn’t they make promises to Other and get married and have sex and it not be sin? Sure. At its most basic level marriage is two people in a covenanted relationship. But that doesn’t mean you and your girlfriend are married when you promise to live each other and decide to have sex. You’re not on a desert island!! The basic principles are not the only ones.
What about church? If two people find themselves on a desert island, and they read the bible and pray – yeah, it’s their church! But when you refuse to be part of a local group that has authorities and support, you’re ignoring Jesus’ people.
Desert island theology is a helpful tool for identifying important elements of ideas, but those ideas should never be left on the island.
We used to say, “Dress slightly more dressed-up than the average person in your church.” One of the main reasons was because we didn’t want people to think, “hmmm, this is too casual to be ‘church’ – it’s meant to be formal and reflective – but he’s dressed like a slob.”
But really – who’s gonna’ think that? Probably the type of person who’s going to find fault with EVERYTHING!
But what happened to your visitor when they come in for the first time and see the person up the from looking more dressy than they are? Chances are it’s another thing for them to (wrongly) feel judged about.
Why try to appease the 5% by dressing up when the same action could be off-putting to the 50%?!?
Dress just below the average “dress level” and see how it makes people feel comfortable to see Jesus as part of their whole life – trakidacks and all.