The biggest and most discussed component of evangelism is us going out to lost people. Jesus commanded that we do that (Matt 28:19). There is another, smaller, dimension of impacting lost people and that is the importance of receiving those God sends our way. I know that sounds passive but it isn’t. I am not talking about giving up on going out and just hope someone drives by and has a burning desire to attend a worship service. What I am talking about is a piece of the evangelism puzzle that fully complements the going out part. We can go out and reach out to people all day but if we don’t receive them well then we may never gain access to getting into any deeper conversation with them than whatever they hear on their first visit, because they may never come back.
Here are a few things that can make someone never want to return:
- No one speaks with them in any meaningful way: Here they got a warm invitation from a friend and they decided to step out of their comfort zone and attend. That says a lot. That says that they are willing to come into a place with several hundred strangers to see what is going on and see if there is something there that they need in their life. We cannot afford to mess this one up! Some will be graceful enough to return, but some won’t.
- They feel they are unequal: If they feel talked down to in any way for being an outsider, that is lethal.
- They are made to stand out: There are different opinions on this one by many smart and experienced people but my opinion is that visitors don’t come to be made to stand out and seem different. They don’t want you to have all the visitors stand so we can isolate them first and then awkwardly greet them because the preacher said to. That is just weird.
- They are made uncomfortable: Be aware of what you are communicating. We communicate a lot more than we even realize. Some of what we communicate is in what we say. Some of what we communicate is in what we didn’t say. Part of our communication is in what they see, who they see and who they don’t see. They pick up on that. Along with this, by its very nature, the Gospel itself can confront someone’s life and make them uncomfortable. It is good when the Gospel makes someone uncomfortable because they need to become aware of the changes God is calling them to make. We don’t need to add to the necessary discomforts the Gospel already affords through strange & ineffective practices.
- Don’t interrogate them: We want to get to know people. We even want their contact information so we can be in touch. But you have to have enough since of when and who to ask, how much to ask and what not to ask otherwise we can come on too strong and run them off.
- Followup with them if they provide information: If someone comes to worship with you and they actually do leave you an address or phone number, they are basically giving you permission to contact them. Don’t over do it but don’t under do it either. If they leave their information and no one contacts them, that is a fail. What does that communicate to them?
- Don’t say you are glad they are there unless you really are glad they are there: People can see through pleasantries. They can tell if you care or if you don’t. If you are glad you are there, avail yourself to them. Make yourself available, spend time with them but also know when it is too much and they are feeling a little overwhelmed.
- Find balance between overwhelming and underwhelming…just “whelm” them, nothing more nothing less (If you look up “whelm” don’t take me literally on that…it was just a joke!).
- Be aware of what your surroundings communicate: You have probably walked through your church foyer hundreds or thousands of times…so much so that you no longer notice that big coffee stain in the middle of the carpet or that smell that is in the bathroom. Those things won’t run off an insider but it can make a newcomer not want to come back.
- You guys provide what you think #10 should be…what input do you have on this? Comments?