Let’s face it, we Christians often see our mission to outsiders as encouraging them to attend our church services and become “like us”. A genuine seeker, attending church services for the first time, may assume that church services are all that we have to offer. They may become discouraged.
It might be useful for us churchgoers to think about how we feel when we are the seeker. How would we want to be treated if we joined a secular organisation? A local community group perhaps? Well, obviously, we would hope to be greeted warmly. Many churches have members who are good at that. OK so far. But then what? We’d like to understand what was going on. We’d like to understand what people were saying. Would we like to be suddenly part of activities that we didn’t understand? Would we like to be hearing words and phrases we’d never heard before and had no idea what they meant? Would we come back?
I would suggest that a seeker does not need our church services. Our church services are, usually, the very center of our church life, but they are full of rituals and language that newcomers do not understand. We use a lot of jargon. To make it even worse, in many churches, (including my own) some of it is 17th Century jargon. And some of our jargon is even older than that. The word “Gospel”, for example, is used to translate a Greek New Testament word that means “good news”. “Gospel” is an ancient English word that also means “good news” but “gospel” has not been in common usage, anywhere, for about 1000 years! Most people outside churches don’t know that “Gospel” means “good news”. So why not stop saying “Gospel” and just say “good news”? It’s the best possible translation of the Greek word used by the New Testament writers, and everyone who speaks English today understands it.
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 teachings of Jesus. The Christians who are helping the seeker must have the time and commitment to work with them, as well as the necessary spiritual maturity and experience.
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 encourage and help 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 own 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 our loving Savior that they are looking for.
Suppose someone enters a church for the very first time. A church member approaches and welcomes them and, probably, asks them whether they have recently moved into the neighborhood or are just visiting. 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. Let’s go somewhere quiet where we can talk.”? Or do they say: “Let me introduce you to our Pastor”?
Why isn’t revival happening – despite our prayers? Perhaps Jesus is saying to us, his followers: “Ready when you are, guys. Ready when you are.”