Here are four things not to say to a guest in your church.
Before you got here…
Here is one way to keep a guest from ever returning again. Just tell them, “Our last pastor was so much better at preaching than this one.” The guest might wonder, “What church is that pastor at now? I want to go there after he/she said that.” If we are comparing one pastor to another one and especially in a negative light for the one who’s there now, we’re not doing our guest any good at all because we are not esteeming those whom God has placed in the church. When Israel grumbled against Moses (Ex 16:2; Num 14:2), it was really God they were grumbling at (Num 11:1; 1st Sam 8:7). Even if it were true, would you really want to run down the pastor of the church by comparing him to someone the guest has never heard?
Who are You?
When someone arrives as a guest in your church, I think the last thing you should ask them is, “What’s your testimony?” It puts them on the spot from the very beginning. This might make them feel like they’re being put under the microscope. A few years ago, we had one man ask a guest, “What brings you here?” Ouch! First impressions can be lasting ones. Did he need to really explain why he was there? Why not just welcome him or her and say, “Hello, my name is John/Judy and welcome. Thank you for coming. It’s nice to meet you.” That’s much more welcoming than “Why are you here?” or “Who are you?”
Are Those Your Sunday Clothes?
I have never heard anyone say it, but you wouldn’t want to say to someone who didn’t have as nice of clothing as you do, “Are those your Sunday clothes?” We have a homeless man who comes every Sunday. We don’t judge him by appearances and he doesn’t need to apologize to anyone for what he’s wearing because that’s the best he’s got. So what? The foot of the cross is level ground. James tells us to “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1), for example, “if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts” (James 2:2-4). No one should have to pass the “eye test” before they are welcomed in the church.
Let’s Have our Guest(s) Stand Up
This is one the most frequent complaints I’ve heard from guests in my former church and in the church that I now pastor at. When we ask guests to stand up, we aren’t even considering their feelings. Perhaps they’re deeply hurting and just want to blend in for now. Maybe they’re extremely shy and don’t want to be singled out to be noticed. Instead, we have a few of our members go over to introduce themselves, but that’s only one or two people at a time. We discussed the idea that we should not overwhelm them by surrounding them when they come in or by ignoring them altogether. Their body language may tell you lot. Respect the guest’s feelings but at least show yourself friendly.
Paul wrote, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2nd Cor 10:12) so there is no wisdom in comparing our church with others or our pastor with another and especially ourselves with others. God places in the body each member as it pleases Him, not us (1st Cor 12:18). It is not our call. He is the One Who chooses.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman
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