When the church gathers, it’s assumed that the majority of those gathered will be…well…the church: redeemed saints who worship Jesus, encourage one another, and look to the cross.
But even if saints are the majority, there’s another assumption we can easily make: in your crowd, nestled among the believers, are people who don’t yet adhere to the claims of Jesus. They don’t believe the gospel. They are outsiders on the inside, and if we’re not careful, we can cruelly reinforce their feeling that “I don’t belong here.”
I don’t think we avoid that feeling by watering down our worship services. We can sing robustly, preach theologically, and celebrate joyfully. But we can serve the outsiders by (a) acknowledging their “outsiderness” and (b) giving them a gracious out.
Anytime a portion of the service has the potential to make an outsider feel like an outsider, it’s best to own it. We can acknowledge their presence, anticipate their discomfort, and let them off the hook. We can do that…
…in corporate prayer: “We’re going to take a moment now to pray with one another for the needs just mentioned. If you’re not a Christ follower and you don’t feel comfortable praying with others, that’s fine. Simply drop your head, no one will ask you to pray with them.”
…in communion: “There are many, many doors that are open to you here at the church. But scripture is clear that this is a door that only believers should walk through. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, we respectfully ask that you let the tray pass by you. Instead, use this time to reflect on what Jesus did for you on the cross.”
…in the offering: “If you are a guest with us, we do not want you to feel compelled to give, we’re just glad that you are here. This is a time when the people of this church give joyously to the mission of God.”
…in the sermon: “You may be skeptical of whether or not the Bible can be trusted. That’s okay…this is a safe place where you can ask tough questions. But just for the next few minutes, would you consider the claims of scripture, and how they could change your life?”
What are the elements of your service where outsiders feel like even more of an outsider? How can you help them get a peek inside? How can you give ’em an out?