By Cindy Landes
Flashback to the time when I was about six years out of college, married, traveling most weeks for work, having my first child, and living in Chicago away from family. My husband, Charles, and I were overwhelmed.
Charles grew up attending a small-town Baptist church but had stopped attending church before I met him in college. With the hope of easing the stress and anxiety that had overcome us, we decided to visit a Baptist church near our home to try to gain some solace.
I remember how uncomfortable it was getting out of the car and walking toward the door of a new church. We had no idea where to go, so we just followed the crowd.
I recall listening to the pastor, and our small group leader, and growing more and more confused. Not knowing words like: disciple, apostle, resurrection, salvation, communion, and many more, left us feeling out of place.
Then there were words like “transparent” that had a different meaning in church than what I was used to. In my work life, being “transparent” had a negative connotation; it meant people could see through someone’s duplicitous intent. In the church world, however, I learned that being “transparent” meant being real and authentic, even vulnerable.
Most disturbing to me, though, was talking and singing about blood. This actually conjured up images from the movie trailer for the Stephen King horror film Carrie. It took time for me to understand the beauty of the blood that was sacrificed for us.
Fast forward to several years later. My husband and I were co-leading a Bible study group. One week a woman named Kathy decided to join our group. Kathy was somewhat illiterate and held on to many superstitious beliefs. The Bible and church were all new to her. She had a lot of questions.
After Kathy joined the group, there were many weeks when our study would get sidetracked by all the bunny trails she would lead us down. But we knew God had brought her to us for a reason, and Charles and I were patient with her.
We tried to answer all her questions, whether they were on topic or not. And we met with her and her family outside our study group to help her build a firm foundation in the faith.
During this time, several of our members shifted to other groups because they didn’t see the beauty of her burgeoning seed of faith; they just wanted to get through the lesson. Today, Kathy loves Jesus, consistently studies her Bible, and leads groups of her own. I’d say our investment in her was worth it.
We are called to share the good news of the gospel with people who don’t yet know Jesus. But what happens when new people with perhaps little to no understanding of our faith actually visit our churches?
Pay close attention the next time you’re in church or small group. How welcoming are the words, atmosphere, and practices to someone who has never (or rarely) been to church or a Bible study?
As our culture drifts further away from even a basic understanding of Christianity, we need to do our best to view our churches and groups through the eyes of unbelievers so we can better connect with them and influence them with the gospel.
Christ calls us to deny ourselves and serve others. Sometimes it’s challenging and inconvenient, but that’s the cost of love. Consider that Jesus left heaven and came all the way to earth to save us. The cost didn’t hold Him back.
So, seek out the unchurched. Don’t leave them stranded. Come alongside them and allow God to use you to help them grow.
CINDY LANDES is a marketing strategist at LifeWay.