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Every man breathed a huge sigh of relief.

The verdict was in and it had gone the way they hoped…the sharp knives went back in the draw and all the men high-fived each other! What on earth am I talking about?


In the early church the growth was so amazing that it didn’t take long for them to hit one of their first major issues of tension and it occurred around the issue of ‘guests.’ You see up to that time believers were all of the Jewish faith and therefore used to customs of Judaism such as food, ceremonial washing and of course…circumcision! The church was split, one half wanted all the new people, the Gentiles (non Jews), the ‘guests’ if you like, to do what they did, to adopt what the ‘insiders’ were familiar with. The other half however had a different view and eventually that view won (much to the delight of the men!!)

In fact James, himself a good Jew, an ‘insider’ put it this way in Acts 15 v.19, ‘It is my judgment therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.’

So here we are 2,000 years later and my sense is we haven’t learned the lesson James encouraged the early church to learn which is this…

It’s not all about us…

When people are on a journey towards God the onus is on us to help them in whatever way we can. Not to put unnecessary obstacles in their way, and yet we do so without even thinking.

Why is that?

Every church has a gravitational pull and it’s always towards insiders. Our language, our customs, our habits are understood by those who know it and get it but what about the ‘guests?’ When we invite ‘guests’ to our home have you noticed what changes? We do! All of a sudden we notice what looks tired and shabby, we de-clutter what we’ve been promising to de-clutter for weeks, we make sure everything is ready and ship shape for our ‘guests.’

They matter and we show them that they matter.

So why don’t we do that for those who are trying to find their way to God?

We genuinely want to but in some ways we aren’t sure how to….that’s where we want to help…. Maybe you and your leadership team could answer these few questions…(honestly)

1. Do we actively expect guests?

You can always tell a church that does and a church that doesn’t. It’s reflected in the posture, the language, the expectancy is almost palpable in the air. When the teams gather to pray there’s more than a ‘bless us’ type of prayer there’s faith, there’s urgency, we at Lifecentral always say, ‘for us it’s another Sunday, but for someone it will be their first Sunday and for someone it may be the Sunday they get to meet God!’For us this includes on-line as someone who joined us via online in the Covid season famously said of on-line, ‘it became my row behind the back row.’ You don’t know who is on that row behind your back row…expect guests.

2. Do we intentionally prepare for guests?

The way our building looks, the signage, the ease of access, the language we use when we speak does it suggest we are expectant and ready for guests? Do we assume they are in the room? The way we greet in the car park, that first impression, or on the front door, are we over familiar or are we only friendly to those we are familiar with? All of this says something…when we prepare we communicate, ‘you were expected and you are welcome…’ prepare for guests.

3. Do we experientially connect with guests?

During our services if we want guests to ‘get it’ and come back we must be willing to connect with them relationally and provide experiential connection also. Steve started coming to the church at the start of 2022 having never been to church apart from weddings and funerals. His childhood was marked by visiting his dad in prison multiple times and his whole family said they were atheists. His wife dragged him to church but in his own words, ‘as soon as I came I felt something…the words you spoke I understood and they moved me deeply.’ He went on to say, ‘I’d go so far as to say those words saved my life, my mother has just died and I was spiralling but at church I felt I belonged, was welcome and that somehow God wanted to know me and meet with me.’ A few months later he became a follower of Jesus and he now greets people on the front door and helps at Alpha.

Wouldn’t it be tragic if people came to church looking for God and all they found was us?

Find ways for guests to experientially connect with you and with God

4. Do we purposefully invite guests to come back?

This is something many churches overlook. We focus on a great welcome but forget the last thing you experience shapes your overall experience more than you realise. We’ve all had a great meal that’s been marred at the end by an unhelpful waiter and our overall impression is not always the first impression sometimes it’s the last impression!

Think about the goodbye as well as the hello.

Think about the next step as well as the first step.

Riley came to our kids holiday club and loved it, so much so he was desperate to bring his whole family along. Fortunately, our kids team are always thinking of ‘next steps’ so Riley invited his family along to one of those next steps and they haven’t looked back since. They are now on Alpha and discovering God for themselves. Some other things to throw in ‘for free’…. A place that attracts and welcomes ‘guests’ requires a culture more than a programme Culture is set by those who lead…many leaders love crowds but don’t really like people! Find ways you can model the kind of culture you’d love to see in your church towards guests. Ash yourself as a leader this question….“If everyone in my church was like me what kind of church would we be?” Culture is set by example but sustained by stories so tell stories. Stories inspire people and remind people why they do what they do and why what they do is worth it. So expect guests, prepare for guests, connect with guests, invite guests to come back and provide them with next steps and then maybe we too like the early church can see hundreds of people turning to God……wouldn’t that be something?

Leon Evans – Further Faster Network Lead Pastor, Lifecentral church.

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