Summary: Becoming a part of a new church is about developing an entirely new network of relationships and emotional connections. That’s a big step for people; they move into it cautiously, especially those who have been disappointed by churches in the past.
Today, I want you all to put yourselves into the shoes of an unchurched visitor to (insert the name of your church).
Becoming a part of a new church is about developing an entirely new network of relationships and emotional connections. That’s a big step for people; they move into it cautiously, especially those who have been disappointed by churches in the past.
Most people who visit a new church for the first time aren’t clear about what they are looking for, but they are quite sure of what they are not looking for, because they have already experienced it in other churches.
A Lutheran pastor’s experience may shed some light on this issue: “I was in a church where we had a 40 foot stretch between the door to the worship center and the doorway into the sanctuary. We established a rule that a visitor needed to be greeted al least four times before they got into the sanctuary. And it worked! They were greeted every ten feet. Except there was one little problem: that wasn’t what the culture of the church was really like. Most of the people just stood along the outer walls of the church, they weren’t enthusiastic about new people joining us. So, a visitor would enter, get a warm and friendly greeting several times, and think, ‘This is a pretty good church, let’s join.’ For a few weeks, until they become known, they were treated nicely and greeted warmly, but then they became part of the familiar crowd. They sort of settled in and all of a sudden they’re looking around wondering ‘What happened? Now I’m not important anymore?’ And it was because we created a false culture. The people who really were the heart of the church just weren’t interested in them. We had created a false façade to the church and it was really harmful.”
A pastor said, “You can’t really fool people into thinking you care if you don’t. They’ve seen that a hundred times before. They’re really sensitive to it.”
People don’t want a friendly church. They want a friend. We have find ways to help the new people God gives us to find genuine friends.
We have to develop an authentic culture – and atmosphere here at Klamath Assembly of God that says that we are a genuinely loving and caring people.
A new visitor begins to evaluate us the minute they drive into the parking lot. Either consciously or unconsciously they evaluate the appearance of the building, how people interact with them as they are walking to the door. They notice the friendliness and helpfulness of the greeter, but instinctively they know not to judge everyone else by the greeter, because that’s their job to be friendly. They notice the lighting, the cleanliness of the bathrooms, but more than anything else, they are noticing you. Do you greet them? Do you make eye contact? Do you spend time with them, genuinely interested in them as individuals? Do you learn their name?
The next thing they notice is how we relate with each other. Do we really love and care for each other? Do they pick up cues that there really is a spirit of love among us? Not long after they step foot on our campus, they will be greeted by Alice. As most of you know, Alice is a gentile and humble woman who loves to greet people. Outsiders instinctively know that Alice is a barometer of just how genuine we really are. After they meet Alice they will watch and see just how the rest of us treat her. How we treat Alice speaks volumes to the outside visitor. An outsider will immediately pick up on whether you truly love her or whether you just tolerate her. Listen, I am convinced that God has sent Alice here to help train us how to love one another.
How many of you have had Alice over for dinner? How many of you have taken the time to truly get to know her? If you have anything else in your heart but love toward Alice, then God needs to take you out to the spiritual wood shed.
Research shows that the outsider doesn’t really listen to the content of the sermon that closely during their first two or three visits, but they scrutinize the delivery, the tone, the audience reaction, and both the speaker’s and the congregation’s body language very carefully.
They are sizing us up.
They want to know, “Am I going to be accepted here? Am I going to be able to find friends here? Am I going to find people who genuinely care about me here?” That’s what they want to know about us.
People don’t want a friendly church, they want a friend. They want a church where they can be loved and cared for.