By Paul Alexander
None of us like to think we’re leading an insider-focused church. Jesus called us to reach the world, after all. We start churches with a passion to impact our communities, to help the hurting connect with the love of Christ. And yet, the church is often accused of creating cliques and ostracizing outcasts.
How do you evaluate whether or not your church is focused on the insiders instead of the outsiders? Here is a simple path to follow:
1. Review Your Language
The language you use on Sunday mornings, on your website and in classes and discipleship materials is important because it both reflects and builds culture at the same time. This can go very, very wrong in churches.
Look at your communication through an outsider’s lens: What would the names of your ministries mean to someone outside the faith? In your message delivery, are you referencing people from the Bible without context, assuming everyone in the congregation today was there when you taught those passages two months ago?
Here are a few principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you use in your church: 1) Clear always trumps cute or cool and 2) people understand more quickly when you call things what they are and provide context.
2. Ask Someone Who’s Never Been to Your Church to Find the Children’s Ministry
Or the men’s bathroom. Or the fellowship hall. I’ve been to churches with no signage whatsoever to help a newcomer find where to drop off children before the service and no guest services to ask for help. Well placed, clear, directional signage can help people find their way on your campus, and building a culture of excellent guest services helps first-timers feel less like “visitors” and more like welcomed guests.
3. Evaluate Your “Next Steps”
Have you clearly defined what walking with Jesus looks like and created steps for people to get there? Most churches hope people outside the faith will just grow to be more Christ-like by osmosis. If you’re not working on this, chances are you are too focused on the insiders you already have.
4. And the Most Important: Be Honest About How Many People Are Making Decisions to Follow Jesus and How Many Are Being Baptized at Your Church
Insider-focused churches often criticize growing churches who experience a lot of life-change and baptisms. But the truth is, if we’re focused on reaching people, chances are we will reach them. The Gospel is magnetic. God’s kindness leads people to repentance. Our churches should be over-flowing with God’s kindness towards the lost. If people aren’t meeting Jesus at your church, perhaps your church isn’t welcoming those who need Him.
A final thought: Even growing churches can be insider-focused; I call it having the Best Christian Show in Town. As we grow, we must continue to evaluate how we are caring for the people God has given us to lead and the people he has called us to go find.