Friday, September 9, 2011

Church Visitors Who Arrive With a Checklist

When newcomers arrive at PCC they often have questions.  I am more than glad to listen and answer.  That’s part of what I do.  These questions usually fall into two categories:  (1) Questions that sound interrogative in nature, and (2) Questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in our church.  Let me explain.

When someone visiting our church for the first time asks, “What version of the Bible do you use?” or “What do you believe about eschatology?” or “Why don’t you have Sunday School?” or “Who’s on the church board?” or “What’s the role of women in this church?” I always get an uneasy feeling.  It’s offensive that some people inquire too early and too often about their personal hot-button issues.  These questions sound like an evaluation to see if we meet their approval.

When checking us out, I wish people would be more interested to hear about our vision, our mission, the role of prayer in our church, the importance of reaching the lost, the integrity of our leaders, our view of Scripture, how many people we  have baptized, and a dozen other things before launching into an inquiry about their favorite issue.  Besides, as a matter of common courtesy I wish people would not show up ready to ask about items 1-through-10 on their checklist. 

Some people prefer certain issues so strongly that their passions are out of porportion.  It doesn’t matter how much kingdom work we are actually accomplishing at PCC, they get tunnel vision and focus on the minors while overlooking the majors. In fact, to them, flavor is more important than results - their hot button issue is more important to them than anything else our church is doing - including the Great Comission!

Then there are the people who ask the type of questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in our church.  Pastor, tell me about your vision?  or “Tell me about your church?” or  What's the mission of this church?  Questions such as these reveal that a person is actually interested in finding about who we are and what we are doing; something I enjoy immensely because it gives me the opportunity to enthusiastically share all the good things happening at PCC.

Real kingdom work is actually being accomplished. People are being saved, baptized, discipled, changed by God’s power, and marriages are being put back together. Teenagers are on fire for God. Children are being instructed and grounded in God’s Word. All of this adds up to a dramatic demonstration of what the power of God is truly accomplishing in our midst.

But for some, none of that matters. We don't meet their approval because items 1-through-10 on their checklist can't be checked off.

There is nothing wrong with feeling strongly about certain issues related to Christianity.  The problem is when our passion for these things (that we prefer) exceeds our passion for the gospel itself, for the cross, for the lost, the afflicted, and the Great Commission.  Not every issue matters as much as every other issue. 

If your “thing” is Christmas trees, Halloween, the Easter Bunny, twirling in the isles, exercising your glossolalia, or the King James Version only, it’s time to get a better “thing.” 

The kinds of people we are most effective at helping at PCC are the lost, the least, and the lonely - the discarded ones. These are the ones who God sends our way, and when they are won to Christ they buy-in, serve, give, pray, sweep the floors, and take care of the babies in the nursery when nobody else will.

Church hoppers, on the other hand, who have been groomed by previous churches, often arrive at PCC with a checklist in hand asking rude questions - like we are a commodity.  They will argue about almost anything. They talk about action and do very little. They relish in deep theology, but never share their faith with the unlearned. They have tunnel vision and are single-issue voters.  And very often, they lack common courtesy.

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