In yesterday’s post, I listed 10 frequent questions church guests may have prior to arriving at your church for the first time. Today, I want to share how those can be grouped into four main categories of guests, and how you and your church members can move those guests into meaningful gospel conversations.
1) The “How-To” Fixers
These guests come to church realizing that something in their life is broken. However, in their search for a quick fix (whether it be for their marriage, their kids, or their bank account), they’re missing the big picture of salvation. They know they have a splinter in their finger, but are unaware they received it while tearing down their own house.
We should extend empathy for splinters but not stop there. We need to be proactive in showing people their entire life is in shambles without Christ. Encouraging our church members to be honest about their own depravity through the public and regular confession of sin is a great way to do this. Once the backdrop of brokenness is set for a church, the light of the gospel can shine brightly.
2) The Spectacle Seekers
Whether it’s driven by Hollywood or by “call now with your donation” religious broadcasts, spectacle seekers come to church looking for a show. Our church members shouldn’t feel the need to anesthetize or cater to this zeal. Instead, they should redirect it to the main attraction: Christ and His work on the cross!
Train your flock to not shirk away from or play to guests who desire the flamboyant. Rather, use their interest to point to the grand nature of Christ’s gospel. Although it wasn’t received by His immediate audience, Jesus gives a great example of how to do this in John 6:25-40. (Jesus’ reception in these passages should also encourage us on the occasions when people walk away from our fellowship due to a lack of bells and whistles.)
3) Those in Pain
It’s the kindness of God and the work of the Spirit that draws people who are in pain to His bride. After all, those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick (Matthew 9:12). Although the world offers a million different examples of carnal Band Aids, it’s the church and Scripture alone which can offer a true diagnosis for the ultimate source of pain.
When church guests open up about their problems, we should be quick to explain the grand narrative of the Bible: the good creation, the Fall, Christ’s redemption, and His promised future restoration of all things. Since our sin is the cause of the curse, all pain (from childhood regrets to cancer) points to the fact that things aren’t as they should be. When guests hear this raw truth spoken, they are more willing to trade in a “fix it in 5 easy steps” mentality for a Savior who took all evil upon Himself and promises a perfect redemption for this broken world.
4) The Frustrated Legalists
Finally, we have the frustrated legalists—folks hovering around the church because they feel they’re supposed to. These are people who are aware of the need for spiritual disciplines, but lack the Christ-fueled joy to pursue them regularly. Our church members might hear these people use phrases such as, “it’s a struggle,” “l lack a passion,” or “I’m inconsistent.” My experience on the bookstore frontlines tells me that frustrated legalists usually want a magic pill that will change all this for the low, low cost of just $19.99 plus tax.
Of course, when our church members engage a frustrated legalist, they don’t need to push a new study Bible, a tear-jerker Christian DVD, or an evangelistic crusade. They simply need to explain the gospel, get honest about how all Christians struggle with spiritual disciplines, and teach that Christ bore our burden to be perfect. Legalists want tips and cheats. Let us train our people to give them enabling grace instead.
Turning FAQ Visitors to Regular Subscribers of Grace
These four categories of guests are not exclusive, but they do summarize the initial focus of many people who poke their head inside a church. Pastors should not bear the sole weight of engaging these guests. Instead, we must invest in our members to do this work. Train them to recognize the common threads the Holy Spirit uses to draw people to His church. Equip them so that they know how to guide guests to weightier questions which allow the gospel to be proclaimed in the context of their lives.
It’s a Spirit-filled people regularly proclaiming the gospel that turns skeptical visitors into regular subscribers of grace. Let’s roll out the red carpet for our guests’ questions and ready the walkway to unveil the glorious beauty of Christ!