Churches are doing everything possible to make first-time visitors feel welcome and comfortable. They are given the best parking spaces. They are greeted warmly from the pulpit. They receive thank-you gifts for attending.
Basically, visitors are treated like VIPs. Many churches roll out the red carpet for them. And many churches evaluate their success based on how many of them return.
The New Testament often commands Christians to be hospitable. These commands can be extended and applied to the church. But this visitor craze has taken hospitality too far. We are showing hospitality to the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
The Wrong Approach
There are several reasons why this is wrong. First, Jesus made it difficult to follow Him. So why are we making it easy? He often makes demands that seem unreasonable. Yet we try to pamper people into the kingdom and coddle them into Christ.
Second, we are wasting gratitude on those who do nothing for the church. Do visitors support the church through giving, service, or prayer? No – the membership does that. So what are we thanking visitors for? What have they contributed?
Third, we treat unbelievers better than believers. Paul says, “Let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). Why do we treat those who reject Jesus better than those who accept Him?
The Right Approach
So how should visitors feel at church? Peter sets the record in Acts 2 for preaching to the most visitors at once. Based on his sermon, we can conclude that visitors should feel:
- Confronted. Peter confronts the Jews with their sin. He says, “You put Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross” (v 23). Again he says, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v 36). Visitors should feel confronted. They should be told that Jesus was put to death because of their sin and rebellion.
- Convicted. The Jews feel convicted after Peter’s sermon. “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?'” (v 37). Visitors should feel convicted. They should be heartbroken over their sin and want to repair their relationship with God.
- Called. Peter tells the Jews that God’s promise of salvation “is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v 39). Visitors should feel called. They should feel compelled to respond to the gospel with repentance and baptism (v 38).
This may seem harsh, but look at the response: “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day” (v 41)!
We want visitors to feel called without being confronted or convicted. But when we make them feel comfortable, we undermine their conversion.
How do you think visitors should feel at church? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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