“The church is for believers, not unbelievers or seekers.”
Wow. Really? In your heart of hearts, is that what you really believe? All this is for us, about God loving us, to encourage and save us. Just for us.
I understand that you can make a Biblically supported argument for gathering together an assembly of the saints for the purpose of worship and revelation of scripture. Absolutely. But there is also ample Biblical evidence for making accommodations for unbelievers in your gatherings. In a discussion about the gifts of tongues and prophecy, Paul addresses this in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 14, verse 22, which starts with, “…if unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your church meeting…”
And is this not what we all should be longing for? For unbelievers to come in to our church meeting? To me, it almost seems ridiculous to think any other way, in light of Jesus’ two most compelling directives to His people: (1) The Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “Go and make disciples…” and (2) His emphasis on both loving God with all our heart and loving our neighbor as ourselves as the two greatest commandments near the end of Matthew 22. Were these commandments given to us only as individuals, or as a collective? In other words, if your church decides that the gathering of believers together in church is only meant to serve, encourage, exhort, and facilitate worship for the already convinced, then the only way to fulfill these commandments is to do so as individuals, OUTSIDE of regular church activity. Do you believe that? Does the Bible teach that?
My Pastor tells a story about his first visit to Starbucks… a few years ago, now. Starbucks. Perhaps the most inviting environment on the planet. And yet Bob had never been there before. He didn’t know the lingo. He felt surrounded by people who knew the routine – insiders who knew their way around. They knew the difference between a macchiato and a frappuccino, espresso vs. latte. Bob was an outsider.
As he stood in line, listening to the insiders order their venti half-caf double shot hazelnut macerena’s with whip, his palms began to sweat. Am I going to make a fool of myself? Slowly, he worked his way forward to the counter, where he was just able to blurt out… “Coffee!”
What kind sir?
Tall, Venti, or Grande?
Thankfully, Bob left with a delicious tasty beverage, and a sigh of relief. And, he’s even become a huge fan of Starbucks coffee. He can order with the best of ’em now – no meds needed. And you know what made all the difference? He went for the first time with a friend. A buddy walked with him through the line. Introduced him to Starbucks. Otherwise, how would he know the greatness that is the Starbucks coffee experience? Bob might have NEVER gone in there on his own. It wasn’t his crowd – wasn’t his scene. Sure he went in seeking a great cup of coffee – he was pretty sure he could find one inside the doors of Starbucks, but going in on his own was a little daunting.
Please tell me this parable (true story) has connected the dots for you.
At Living Hope Church, believers gather to worship – to learn – to hear the word of God – to receive encouragement and exhortation – to be reminded of the Gospel. But the Church isn’t for believers. The Church IS believers. And as a Body, our focus ought to be OUTWARD – on the nervous, uncomfortable, lonely, broken outsiders who need far more than a good cup of coffee. They need to meet Jesus. And how will they ever meet Him if they aren’t introduced? And how will they ever be introduced if the local church puts a huge “insiders only” sign in the front door?
Local church – preach the fullness of the Word without compromise. Let God’s truth penetrate and pierce. He does the saving after all. But for the love of God (and the love of people), make your church welcoming to the outsiders among you. The stakes are sobering. And thrilling.
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” – Philippians 2:3-4
Where do you fall on this? Is your church eagerly inviting outsiders into your gatherings, walking with them through the process, or do they just mess it up for the insiders?
“is church for believers or unbelievers? :: starbucks, the gospel, and outsiders among us” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.