Yesterday, I was driving by a nearby church, and noticed their big LED sign out front:  “SINNERS WELCOME!!!” My first reaction was, “Hey, that’s great.” I’m not totally sure how people would take to that, but that’s a good attitude for a church to have. The sign got me thinking, “I wonder how many churches are — really, truly, honestly, and openly — welcoming to sinners?”

“You’re Not Good Enough For Our Church”

The Goody-Goody Problem

What are some of the underlying reasons for an unwelcoming church? Here are a few:

  • Focused on maintenance, not mission. This is the church where the budget, programs, and efforts all reflect an awkward tilt toward maintaining programs and ministering inwardly. This church might be keeping the Christians happy, but they aren’t proclaiming the Good News to the needy.
  • Focused on human performance, not the truth of the Gospel. This is also known as legalism. Legalistic churches are places where people can be abused or excluded by a lack of grace. The better of a person you make yourself, the harder it is to understand grace. And the less you understand grace personally, the less you minister it to others. And grace is the only thing that can make a difference in anyone’s heart.
  • Focused on comfort, not loving others. This is the Club Church mentality. The church doesn’t look for people to love; instead, they love the comfort of their clique. It’s hard to “reach down” to people who come from dirty houses, speak in broken English, and have an addiction to illegal drugs. Plus, it’s pretty dangerous. This kind of church is a fine example of a cloistered clique, but a poor pattern of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.

“You’re Not Good Enough for Our Church!” 

Nobody in your church would say that to a visitor. However, it might be the feeling that people receive when they visit some churches. Here are some symptoms of an unwelcoming church:

  • People stare when a person walks in who doesn’t meet the “dress code.” (I’ve even been to a church where said individual was asked to leave.)
  • Everyone stares in horror if someone murmurs aloud during prayer, shouts “Amen!”, applauds after a song, or raises their hands during worship.
  • Deacons rush to witness to the man with tattoos and earrings.
  • There are separate Sunday worship facilities for “bus kids” or the “outreach ministry.”

What’s the Solution?

I’m not going to give any explicit rules, like “don’t witness to the guy with tats.” Instead, I’ll provide four Bible principles:

  • “Become all things to all people,” and “do it all for the sake of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23).
  • Like Jesus, endeavor “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).
  • “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” — which includes all kinds of people (Matthew 28:19).
  • “Endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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6 Responses

  1. Debbie

    That is a great article! Grace is definitely key. If it wasn’t for the grace God put in others hearts for me, I probably wouldn’t be living for the Lord today. God bless you!

  2. Michael Nartey

    Beloved in Christ,
    May the peace of the lord be with you.Thanks a lot for your article God richly bless you for knowing such a big lapses about nowadays Christians.God Bless you!

  3. Rev, Anita Marshall

    I read this article with interest. Descriptions of the various types of churches or congregations were insightful.

    Thre was one thought missing from the article. The sign was appropriate for all churches and all congregations. Whether we are saints or sinners, strangers or members, each time any of us enters a Church of Jesus Christ, a sinner is entering. We are all sinners saved through God’s grace who because of our human nature are prone to sin and that continually.

    Therefore when strangers or the unsaved enter the portals of our individual churches we are looking at reflections of who we are deep within our hearts. If our hearts are overflowing with love in gratitude for God’s love for us, we will love and embrace everyone. Proverbs 10:12 tells us that love covers a multitude of sins or wrongs we imagine or know are done by others, and must importantly ourselves.

  4. Jeanne

    Very thought-provoking article. We must be very welcoming to all comers, not just those that fit our pre-conceived notons of what a church-goer, or even a Christian, should look and act like.

    BTW, I believe the scripture you may have meant to refer to was Matthew 28:19, aka “Grea Commision.”

    At any rate, the articlei excellent.

  5. Brenda

    Excellent article! This should be pasted on a billboard in every town and city in the U.S. A lot of us have forgotten why we are and whose we are.

  6. Noy

    I really touch my heart about this message, may the Lord continue to shower on us this kind of articles.Perhaps the leaders and members of my church will understand regarding this situation.

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