Let’s face it, we Christians often see our mission to outsiders as encouraging them to attend our churches and become “like us”.
Let’s face something else. Many people who regularly attend church services are not actively pursuing a committed relationship with Jesus. Nor are they actively trying to live according to his commands. A genuine seeker, attending church services for the first time, may assume that the people they see there have the relationship with God that they themselves are looking for. They may also assume that church services are all that we, who claim to serve God, have to offer. They may become discouraged.
Suppose someone enters a church for the very first time. A church member approaches and welcomes them and the newcomer says: “I want to be right with God, can you help me?”. How does the church member respond? Do they say: “Yes. I can help you.”? Or do they say: “Let me introduce you to our Pastor”? How busy is the Pastor? Does the Pastor have time to spend with the seeker?
I would suggest that a seeker needs a simple environment where they can spend time in conversation with one or more Christians who really know what it means to have a love relationship with God. These people won’t have all the answers (none of us do) but it will be a place where the seeker can ask questions, learn to pray and learn to start living according to the commands of Jesus. (Jesus said that new disciples should be taught to obey everything that he commanded his disciples – Matthew 28:19-20). The Christians who are discipling the seeker must have the time and commitment to work with them, as well as the spiritual maturity and experience necessary to do so effectively.
I would suggest that a seeker does not need our church services. Our church services are, usually, the very centre of our church life, but what do the things we do in our services mean to a newcomer? What do the words of the songs we sing mean to them? What do the spoken words they hear mean to them? Listen to the words that are said, or sung, in our church services. How much is Christian jargon and, therefore, unhelpful to someone who has never been exposed to Christian culture?
Here’s a question. If revival breaks out soon (and many of us are praying that it will) are we equipped to respond to large numbers of people who want to be right with God? Our task will be to disciple and encourage these people as they develop their love relationship with Jesus and live in obedience to his teachings. Is there a danger that we will respond only by encouraging them to join our brand of Christian culture? If the person who is wanting to be right with God does not find what they are looking for, they will not stick around, and they may never make the connection with him that they so desperately need.
Perhaps Jesus is saying to us, his followers: “I’m ready when you are.”