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Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 2

We are now approximately 10 weeks away from moving to our permanent location. While we won't have a sanctuary or youth center (yet) we will have a welcoming spirit! I met a first-time visitor Sunday who told me, after the service, that we "knocked it out of the park" in terms of welcoming her. Let's keep it up!

Dr. Thom Rainer (Becoming a Welcoming Church, p. 6-7) writes of a couple that had a far different experience in another church. Ryan and Bethany agreed to visit and "give it a try" with their two young daughters. So they did. Once. Not twice. 

Interviewed later, in their own words, they said the church website was "terrible." It had not been updated to reflect the new time of the worship service. Consequently they arrived late. Church members had taken all the close parking spots. Supposedly there were guest parking spots but Ryan could not find them. At the front door two greeters spoke to them "for at least two seconds...then resumed their private conversation." When they went to the children's area to check in their two young daughters the area was dirty, security was weak, and the person who met them "complained that they were late." No wonder they never returned.

However, Dr. Rainer says the most surprising thing occurred when he surveyed many members of this same church: "When we interviewed members of this church, they consistently proclaimed a similar message: our church is very friendly!"

And herein is the problem in many churches. Church members perceive themselves as friendly – and they are – with each other. But they seldom put themselves in the shoes of a first-time visitor. The questions, the insecurities, even the fears that visitors have are often forgotten. A welcoming church anticipates these things, warmly assists newcomers, calms their fears, and authentically welcomes them into the church family.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Becoming A Welcoming Church

I want to talk briefly about the book we have given you, Becoming A Welcoming Church.  It is important that we welcome strangers and visitors. One of the things that struck me about the book was the statement, "Here is the reality: what takes place in the first ten minutes when a first-time guest arrives will largely determine whether he or she returns."

I agree. And I like that—if for no other reason than it takes the preacher off the hook, to some degree! The best sermon will likely not overcome the first ten minutes if those minutes are unpleasant. Therefore what happens in the parking lot is critical. Is adequate parking available? Is there clear signage? Are visitor parking areas clearly marked? Is the front door unlocked? (I recall one Christmas Eve service at my former church where the front door remained locked until the prelude!) Are greeters talking amongst themselves in a "holy huddle" or are they intentionally available to welcome the visitor and offer assistance?

Far too often we attend church preoccupied with our own desires: will my friends be there? Will the sermon be good? Will the children be well cared-for? This is normal, but to be a welcoming church, we must also cultivate a desire to serve, love, welcome, and encourage others, especially those who are new among us. It is a gospel issue! Welcoming visitors is one obvious way we love our neighbor as ourselves.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Assumptions - Part 8

In the December 2017 issue of "Christianity Today", Dr. Karl Vaters wrote an article entitled "8 Assumptions Pastors Can't Make in a Post-Christian Culture." We've been considering these assumptions for the past several weeks and today come to the final one. All of us, not just pastors, need to be aware of these things as we seek to glorify God in a secular culture.

The final assumption is this: 

An Acceptance of Salvation Through Christ Alone

The author says, "The idea that there are multiple paths to truth is more palatable to post-Christian people than accepting Jesus' claim of exclusivity."

About 15 years ago I was teaching an Inquirers' Class for prospective new members. It was the first class and I asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell us what church they had come from, if any. I was surprised by one man who was coming from a very liberal Presbyterian church in Nashville. I was so curious I put him on the spot and asked, "Why are you visiting our church since we are quite conservative theologically?" His answer was unforgettable: "Our pastor is preaching a sermon series he has entitled, 'Terrible Texts.'" I said, "You mean terrible texts from the Bible?" He nodded affirmatively so I asked, "Like what?" He said, "My wife and I only stayed for one sermon in the series but it was on John 14:6 where Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.'"

I'm not often speechless but I was on that occasion. I was so naive! I would have expected to hear that sort of comment from a university professor but this came from a Presbyterian pastor right here in the Bible belt.

In these last 15 years it has become more commonplace for clergy to take issue with Jesus' exclusive claim of salvation. And if clergy take issue with it you can be sure the laity will too. We are told that Jesus' statement was narrow, rigid, arrogant, and too exclusive of other people's beliefs. But Jesus said it! And Jesus meant it! And frankly, I don't think there is anything else worth preaching. Some may complain that Jesus said there is only one way to be saved. I believe we should rejoice that there is a way, albeit only one, for sinners to be saved.

To borrow Augustus Toplady's words:

Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress; helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.

There is only one way to be saved and that is by faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose for our justification. May God help us to declare that wonderful gospel to a world that desperately needs to hear it. 

Posted by Jim Bachmann