I recently wrote about how important it is to be aware of unbelievers and outsiders in our midst as we gather for worship. You can go back and read my reflections on what both John Wimber and the Apostle Paul (both great guys but not equal in their influence) had to say about being aware of the front door.
When the Church gathers we are never truly alone. Our faith is personal but it is never private. We’re a family at a family meal but not one that doesn’t have free spots to join in. It’s a good thing to have unoccupied chairs in a worship service. I’ve read that any gathering should have 40-30% free seats so that new people will feel like there is a place for them. But how can they feel like there is really a place for them. We have to be already seeing people among us.
Last Sunday, in your worship gathering/Church service/Sunday meeting there were quite a few people there for the first time. Did you see them? There were…
A couple folks from the surrounding neighbourhood. Who knows what they believe? They saw the sign and wanted to see what you’re all about. Does your congregation care about them? Do you know their needs and concerns? How could they know that you care? Are you aware of the surrounding community and its wonderful uniqueness? What does the Gospel say to them?
A couple who just moved from different city. They love Jesus and want to meet people and find ways to get involved in a new Church. They’ve been to your website and like what they saw. Do they feel like outsiders? Are they welcomed? Can they see a path into the community of existing relationships that make up the congregation? What Gospel do they share with us?
A guy who hasn’t been in Church for years. He’s a friend of a parishioner who has been talking to him about Jesus. She took a big step of faith and asked him to check out Church. He’s a pretty big skeptic and thinks he knows what Christianity is about. He thinks it is all about rules that take away your fun and beliefs that discredit human intellect. That’s what Church and Christ meant to him when he was growing up. Is the sermon going to prove him right? What Gospel will he hear?
A young womyn* who is not at all inclined to like Christianity. (her spelling, not mine, but I respect it!) She considers herself spiritual but not in a Christian way. She’s offended by the Christian belief that God is a Father. She considers herself open-minded but has her antennas up for anything that is narrow. Is anyone going to be friendly to her? Are her questions going to addressed? Is there any Good News for her?
A young Pakistani guy. His parents are immigrants but he has grown up here all his life. He’s nominally Muslim but never practices or thinks much about it. He likes to party and go to Whiskey Dix (pretty sketchy dance club for non-Winnipeggers out there) some weekends. He doesn’t think about God much and has never thought about what is unique about Jesus. What the presence of passionate worship be like for him? Will he be able to hear Good News?
All those folks were in the room with you last weekend. Did you see them? They were in the room along with all the regulars – broken, sinful, eager, struggling, hopeful believers that we are. We’re not better than they are. We need Jesus this weekend as much as they do. And it is the exact same Gospel that is for all of us. But did we see them?
You probably get it that they weren’t really there physically. But here’s the point: If we don’t see them when they’re not there, we’ll never really get to see them. This doesn’t mean that we cater to the tastes and fancies of the world around. It doesn’t mean we give them fluff so as not to offend. It doesn’t mean the we don’t praise God like His people should. It doesn’t mean that we don’t preach (and receive) the unfiltered truth of the Good news with all its promise, challenge, warning, and comfort. But it means that we still need to see them. Get it?
Did you see them? Then you never will.
They weren’t really there. But don’t you want them to be?