Maybe you were raised in the faith and every week of your life has been centered around activities associated with the church. If so, you’ve had the blessing of discipleship within the Christian faith. That’s not exactly how I grew up. Reality tells me that the overwhelming majority of Americans did not grow up like that either. What do we call those who have not had that privilege of grace? They are the unchurched. Essentially, they are the outsiders.
If you’ve been in the faith for a decade or two, you have possibly lost touch with what it feels like to be an outsider. Why is this important? Well, as a minister of the Gospel I’ve never been too impressed over the constant swapping of church members among the Body of Christ. I do know that sometimes it happens for very valid reasons. Relocation to a new home for vocational reasons is one. Some relocate their church home in order to be closer to their family. It’s not uncommon for vocational ministry staff to move several times within their ministry lifetime. However, I’ve never been able to get wondrously excited over transfer growth. Our goal is to reach those who are outside of the faith that know not the wonderful blessings of the salvation found in Christ. So it’s very important that we understand that they, the outsiders, are our target audience.
The nature of the ministry I’m called to serve causes me to be in and out of many different church situations each year. Leaving the familiarity of the pastorate in 2011, me and my family became outsiders, but not in the same way that those who are out of Christ experience. I do think, though, and that thinking causes me to write this blog.
Many congregations seem to have forgotten what it’s like to be an outsider. It becomes easy to do what satisfies the regulars and stick with the familiar way of doing things. However, when we fall into this routine we simultaneously alienate those whom we have been called to reach. Soon, the congregation can find itself in a decline that started because we lost our outreach focus and stopped thinking like outsiders.
What’s my point? It’s simply that church leaders (pastors and leadership boards) need to regain their edge towards reaching the unchurched. Remember, Jesus teaches us about the need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (see Matthew 10:16).
Imagine that you are totally unchurched. You’ve never been inside any worship facility unless it was for a funeral or a wedding. Ready? Now, what it would be like to drive by your worship facilities? Is there anything at all to impress? Does the building blend into the scenery or is it apparent that someone there cares about the outside appearance? Is there any visible signage that needs updating? Is the outside of the building in need of some repair or updating?
Have you taken seriously the day and time in which we are living? This is the age of the internet super highway and social media rules. Did you know that most unchurched people will not simply visit your church? Their first move is to check out your internet presence. Assuming you have a website, is it updated? Does it look classy? Are your worship service times prominent on the very front page without having to be searched for? What about social media and your church? Is someone responsible for using it as a means of promotional marketing and outreach? Does your staff behave well in their social media interactions? Yes, my church friends, all these things matter.
Now imagine that you’re in the parking lot of your facilities for the first time as an unchurched person. Do you have some parking spaces clearly marked for guests? Are there any signs pointing the way to the entrance? What about some indication at or near the entrance of what time your worship service actually begins? Is there a warm smile attached to a genuinely friendly person there to recognize and help outsiders?
I’ll let this go with a simple plea. Please try to imagine what it’s like for the unchurched who are searching for some answers, help, and a friend. Let’s make it easy for the outsiders to become insiders. We can only see such assimilation take place when we intentionally begin thinking like outsiders.