I don’t think too many people object to Jesus when they see him as a teacher, philosopher, or a champion for social injustice. People like Jesus and are attracted to him, but they don’t like the church. This prevailing attitude – if not addressed – can have an impact on a congregation’s evangelism efforts.
“Religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him.” [The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller]
What causes people to be intrigued by Jesus? What would prompt people to be attracted to him? In a world that is growing increasingly estranged from the established church, I wonder if the unchurched are intrigued enough or attracted enough to go and hear a law and gospel message during a worship service at church.
People like Jesus not the church.
There are people who reject Jesus because of the church.
We meet these people when Praise and Proclaim goes out door-to-door to proclaim the gospel.
During the first year and a half of our ministry, we encouraged congregations to include an invitation for people at the door to come to a worship series to hear a sermon series or attend a special service. When you treat people with love and respect, people will usually be polite with you.
Across the U.S., we noticed that people responded differently by region.
In the Bible-belt, the people we met at the door were comfortable with religion and not afraid to confess their faith. They were more likely to congratulate you for going out to spread God’s Word.
In the Northeast, people tended to look at you strangely, but were tolerant at the door. If they belonged to a church, they typically shared their allegiance to the catholic church.
In the Midwest, the people we met at the door were friendly. Many will readily admit that they already feel affiliated with a church. They will also confess that they have not gone there in the last twenty years except for funerals and weddings.
In the Pacific Northwest, people are not afraid to tell you that they have no interest in organized religion. Some will hold up their hand and politely ask you to not bother them.
Except for a few instances, unchurched people visibly balked when they received an invitation to come to a worship service.
People like Jesus, but they just don’t like the church.
“Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. … If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.” [The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller]
This quote from Timothy Keller is thought-provoking. I believe pastors are faithfully preaching law and gospel today. Faith rests solely on the power of God’s Word. And I think Timothy Keller would agree with that. He is referring to the unattractiveness of religious moralism.
The gospel message is crucial. The messaging is also important. People reject Jesus because of the message, but the messaging of the church can keep them away from hearing the Word.
This can unintentionally appear at many congregations.
There are invisible roadblocks that must be overcome to reach the unchurched due to their difficult church experiences, biblical ignorance, and bad press.
Inviting the unchurched to come to worship service as a sole means to carry out evangelism strategies may create an unintentional roadblock for congregations because of preconceived notions and false conclusions.
If people are churched and looking for a church home — absolutely!
If people are churched and have just moved into the area – certainly!
But what about the unchurched? What about those who don’t know that they don’t know what Jesus has already done for them? What about those who may have a small flicker of faith – but due to bad church experiences, have refrained from walking through their church door.
If a Christian thinks it’s scary to go door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, imagine how scary it is for an unchurched person to walk through your church doors. It’s scary. It’s filled with strangers. They may be unaccustomed to your worship style. The church may conjure up bad memories. They may not feel welcomed. They may feel judged.
People like Jesus, but they just don’t like the church. And they are staying home in droves.
What are people attracted to? What causes a person to be intrigued?
This summer, Praise and Proclaim implemented a few slight changes to our methodology at the door to see what would happen.
We were surprised at what we discovered.
Instead of inviting people come to a worship service, participants were trained to invite people to participate in a community service project or event. In Corvallis, Oregon, we launched a Food Drive. In Milwaukee, WI, we invited people to a neighborhood safety night.
How did people respond?
The invitation resonated with people. It gave the church credibility. A church that displays God’s love and exhibits care and concern for the surrounding neighborhood, will grab a more receptive audience that will be more apt to hear what the church teaches.
More importantly, members were able to more easily transition to providing a short message of the gospel.
People like Jesus, but the just don’t like the church.
People were attracted to Jesus because of grace. They could see it in his eyes. They saw it in his actions. He comfortably sat with people who were uncomfortable to others. He loved them despite them.
People may not be intrigued to come and hear the gospel at a worship service, but they will be attracted to hear what you have to say about Jesus.
Personal evangelism breaks the ices, dispels myths and misconceptions about organized religion, and introduces the presence of Christ through the power of his Word.
People may not be attracted to come to a worship service, but they will be intrigued to hear the reasons for the hope that you have in Christ and his promises.
Jesus – the ultimate networker – wants his people to personally introduce him to the world. He’s waiting to meet them. And that introducer can be you.