In this series so far, Shane has set up a three-pronged approach to being a welcoming church. Last week, we considered the first two: Biblical & Balanced (Part 1: Biblical & Balanced). Now, the third: A Missionary Bent….Here is Shanes’s post:
A Missionary Bent
When I was a church planter, I necessarily had a “church plant mentality.” A church planting mentality means many things, but it certainly means that you think about getting the gospel out to the neighbors and neighborhoods around the church. It’s a missionary mindset. A church plant mentality also means when visitors come to the church plant, you go out of your way to welcome them. Although I’m no longer a church planter, I still think all churches and pastors should have a church plant mentality: we want to get the gospel out and we want people to come to Christ and join our Christian fellowship. Both established churches and church plants should have the same attitude about evangelism, outreach, and visitors in worship.
There are various Bible themes to think about when it comes to a missionary or church plant mentality. One example would be Paul’s attitude in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. In this part of the epistle, Paul is telling the Corinthians how he became a servant to all so he could win more of them to Christ. He became all things to all people so that he might save some of them. Why did he do it? for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23).
This is an important biblical truth for missions, evangelism, and church planting. And it should be an important biblical truth for all churches: we serve all people and become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel. This doesn’t mean Christians or churches do anything and everything to win people to Christ, such as sin or follow the ways of the world. But it does mean we think and act in such a way as to serve all people for the sake of the gospel. I’d argue that we should welcome visitors – showing them love as Scripture call us to – for the sake of the gospel.
When a visitor sits behind you on Sunday morning, you should give them a loving welcome. And you do it for the sake of the gospel: because you trust in Christ, you love your neighbor and want him or her to trust in Christ along with you. I want people in the congregation I serve to show love and hospitality to visitors for the sake of the gospel. The love shown to visitors is one way a church can put the beauty of the gospel on display.
Think of it like this: the sermon proclaims the love of Christ who became a servant and died to save his people. The love shown to visitors is an echo of the gospel: we serve a loving Savior and we follow him in loving others. It brings honor and glory to Christ to proclaim his love as Savior of sinners and it also brings honor and glory to him when we obey him by loving others. In other words, Christ’s love must be preached from the pulpit and it must be on display in the congregation.
One other aspect of a missionary bent or a church planting mindset is to consider the context of the church. What type of people live around the church building? What are some ways the local church can become a servant to them in order to win them? How can we make our church fellowship more welcoming to the kinds of people that live around us? While truth should never be compromised for the sake of welcoming, are there other ways that the church can be more accommodating and welcoming to visitors? How can we make all kinds of visitors feel comfortable when they join us for worship? These are the types of questions to be asking and discussing. Lord willing, we’ll be discussing some of these details later in this series.
It is true that the gospel is a stumbling block for some people and foolishness for others (1 Cor. 1:23). For some people, Scripture truth is an obstacle. The church must not get rid of or change the gospel or biblical truth because they are obstacles to some people. However, with a missionary mindset, it is wise to consider if we have put unbiblical obstacles in people’s way when it comes to the Christian faith. For example, if a church would preach that you can’t wear blue jeans or Nikes to a worship service, that would be an obstacle for some people – and an unbiblical one at that! As we think about being a welcoming church, we should also make sure we have not put unbiblical stumbling blocks in people’s way (Rom. 14:13, 16:17, 1 Cor. 10:32).
Conclusion to Our Overview
The call from Scripture to love our neighbor is a call for the church to give a kind welcome to those who visit our worship services and other church events. It’s not optional, it’s biblical. At the same time, there’s the need to be wise and balanced in welcoming visitors. Finally, it’s for the sake of the gospel and the glory of Christ. We lovingly welcome visitors because we ultimately want them to follow Christ with us. It’s for the sake of the gospel!
Next up: The Welcoming Pastor