I wish Christians would get a grip. How can your top priority in bringing a friend to church be an experience that ensures he/she return? That means making sure the guest has a good time–enjoys himself. But if that’s the main thing you want for your visitor, you can easily take him to a movie instead! So many other things promise or even guarantee good cheer, fun, inspiration, blah blah blah. Church isn’t meant to meet those sorts of needs/wants. Again, take your guest to a water park or an ‘Isn’t it Time to Reset Your Life?’ convention.
Of course, churches should make visitors feel welcome. But if you love your friend, I’m sure the reason you’ve invited him to church is so that he can hear the gospel. If not, again, there are a lot of options for quality time. So, you love your friend and want him to hear and believe the gospel. And if you know the Bible, you know that only part of this process is in the hands of the church. The other part is in God’s hand and solely dependent on His sovereign will. If your church is a gospel-preaching church, the red flag that ought to pop up when you agonize about bringing a friend because he’ll be turned off should have *your* name on it, not your pastor’s, nor your church’s. It isn’t the church’s responsibility to save or even hook your friend with feel-good experiences. The church’s job, and the pastor’s job, is to confront you, me, and your friend/guest with the reality of sin and our need for a Savior, and the comforting fact that Jesus has met that need. If you’re afraid of your friend hearing that, well, that says a lot about you, and nothing about your church (except that perhaps its not appreciated by its own–like the Old Testament prophets and Jesus himself!).
It’s even more disillusioning (it should be shocking!) when it’s Christian parents guilty of this type of thinking when it comes to their kids. Granted, I don’t have kids. But I know how I love my own family and my friends. I want them to know the truth, and I want them to be saved. Surely Christian parents must want, more than anything else, for their children to know and love God for who He is, for them to believe His Word, for them to know and trust Christ. But how can they know Him and what He’s done if no-one tells them? And how is the Truth to be told other than straight out, soberly, and with urgency? You can’t afford to press your church to provide your kids with a cushy experience. Only God can give them true joy and peace, and that only comes on the other side of repentance from sin, with salvation. I just don’t know what these people are thinking!
What a waste to ask, even beg, people to come to church when we aren’t going to make it worth their while by giving them God’s word, and what an affront to God Himself to pray for Him to save our non-Christian visitors and grow our local body when we won’t do our part by obeying and operating by the standards He’s set for His church! It isn’t up to the church to save people by slowly integrating them into a happy family, showing them how life could be if they just became Christians, loving them to belief, etc. That isn’t how the apostles did it. And the elect won’t need to be cajoled, pleaded with, appeased and entertained with a sugar-coated or hollowed-out gospel in order for them to come to know the Lord of Life. God demands faith, and you can’t have faith in a squishy, vague, ethereal Jesus with a vague, unbiblical message and undefined call to repentance.
Sackcloth and ashes? What’s that?!
I was trying to think of an illustration, or a descriptive phrase above when talking about entertaining people into belief–at one point I thought of the gospel as being ‘disemboweled’, or even ‘castrated’. Perhaps that’s a bit strong (then again, maybe not). A useful illustration may be applicable, since I’ve so often heard it said that, ‘Well, the church isn’t growing–maybe we all individually just need to “shine a little brighter”,’ which does not mean, ‘Speak a little clearer.’ These folks don’t speak, you see–you don’t ever confront anyone verbally these days; you just be nice and hope they understand that you’re somehow different, and deduce or infer what the gospel is from your ‘quiet witness’. In the vein of shining lights, perhaps the new technique (methodology?) for getting people not only to come to church but also to stick around and become members, is to dress that ‘shining light’ up literally, with a Tiffany lamp-stand and shade–you know, the ones that look like stained glass. They always make me smile! You set up your lamp, install a 100W bulb, and ask people to come and admire it. It’s nice, they all admit, but some people ask you to put it to use, turn it on, either for actual light or so they can get the full effect. Somehow, in all your obsessing about how it looks, you can’t even remember how it works, let alone realize that you bought a lamp-stand that, for some reason, has no plug.