When talking to unbelieving seekers or Christians without a church home, there are always two extremes to avoid. The first is to assume that all churches are doing the same thing and preaching the same thing. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, as many churches and denominations have certainly abandoned the gospel. That’s ignorance.
The other extreme is to assume that your church is the only faithful church in the area. Now of course this is possible, but to assume that is the case without any evidence falls on the same side as arrogance. People can pick up on arrogance and most folks aren’t big fans of it.
There can be a weirdness when it comes to pointing such a person to a church. You do have to acknowledge that not all churches preach Christ and Him crucified, but you don’t want to sound (or be for that matter) arrogant, divisive, and say, “It’s my church or one that has gone apostate. Those are your options.” Both can be destructive for the seeker. You could end up affirming falsehood or reinforce their suspicion of “You just want me to come to YOUR church.”
So what can you do?
Last night a good friend of mine really offered a great idea. Simple but really quite good as it affirms the truth while graciously avoiding error.
1.) Explain the gospel to the seeker. Whether he/she is a believer, seeker, or just thinks he/she a Christian, you have the opportunity to say, “I would recommend you go to a church that really preaches the gospel. Not all churches do these days. Here is what I think the bible says about the gospel.” If he/she is asking about churches to go to, you have the open door. Thoroughly explain the gospel message.
2.) Challenge the seeker/believer to really listen to the sermons and see if what is being preached is the gospel. Tell him/her to go to church where the gospel is preached. Explain the difference between moralism and true repentance and faith. Let them know the difference between universalism and the truth that only Jesus can save. Let them know that they should be able to hear the difference between grace and simply “try harder and be nice” or “do this and God will love you more.” If they know the gospel, they will be able to smell moralism, universalism, and legalism.
3.) Listen for exegesis more than opinions or good advice. Don’t say “exegesis.” But you can tell them that a gospel centered church will always be centered around what God’s Word really says. If a passage is read but not expounded and applied, then you are left with opinions and advice.
4.) Follow up with him/her. You can always say, “I can’t speak for all the churches in the area. I’m sure there are good ones. But here is my experience with mine. If you’d like to come and check out my church, if for no other reason to help you confirm you’re in the right place, we’d love to have you.” If not, you can still ask him/her to describe his/her experiences so far.
If you live in a churched area, chances are you will have such opportunities to direct people to churches other than yours. But in such opportunities, you may end up with an opportunity to share the gospel, direct people to other good churches, or eventually plug them into your church community. The latter is not a bad goal if you truly believe that it is the best place for them to grow in Christ.
If you center everything around the gospel, and help point them to church that preaches the gospel-regardless if its yours or not-it’s a win for the home team.