One Thing First-Time Guests Really Need

I discovered an article today called 5 Things First-Time Guests HATE Doing at Church. What are these five things? According to Dale Hudson, they are:

  1. People hate waiting in line.
  2. People hate not knowing where to go.
  3. People hate to be ignored.
  4. People hate being singled out.
  5. People hate not being able to find a good parking spot or having to settle for a crummy one.

Should we pay attention to how we treat first-time guests at church? Yes, we should. In fact, the Letter of James, which may be the first New Testament book written, brings this to our attention (Jam. 2:2-4).

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

How we treat first-time guests at church is very important. However, the factors we focus on reveal a curious condition. Settling for a crummy parking spot? Waiting in line? Really?

To be fair, I understand the reason for  lists like these. My question is not about the list. It is about the spiritual condition of our churches. Throughout the world, there are people attending churches that don’t have a parking lot. There are people who walk barefoot for miles, to meet in a mud hut, with a thatched roof that leaks. They do this in sweltering weather. They do this in the rain.

They do this and don’t complain about standing in line or being singled out. They do this because they know that when they arrive, they will experience something genuine. Something real. Something powerful and life-changing. But in America? Wow. In the Western world in general? It’s not this way. Not every church in America is exactly like another. But in a broad and general way, it’s possible we resemble the first-century church in the city of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-20).

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17).

We struggle when we have to settle for a crummy parking lot. But walk a mile to church? No way. That’s out of the question.

We struggle when we have to stand in a line, or sit right beside another person in the pew. Or worse? When we have to sit in a front row seat!

Can I add one more thing that first-time guests HATE doing at church?

People hate arriving at church only to discover something other than the real thing.

Parking lots, lines, meet-and-greet times and directions aside, what first-time guests need more than anything is bona fide, genuine Christianity. That’s what James 2:2-4 tells us. And that’s what impacts first-time guests for real.

If they experience authentic, genuine charity, whole-hearted, believing prayer, Spirit-filled, expositional preaching, those whom God is drawing to Himself will come again. And they’ll come again, even if they have to wait in line or settle for a crummy parking spot.

By God’s grace, may this be what first-time guests experience at your church. And may it begin with you.

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