Why we should not invite unbelievers to church services

Posted: April 18, 2016 in Christian Living, Music & Videos
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The title may seem counterproductive and even in opposition to what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20. In Mark 16:15 Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation. The Greek word used for “preach” is kēryssō, and means to publish or proclaim openly something which has been done. And in Matthew 28 the Greek word used for “make disciples” is mathēteuō, and means to teach. (Notice Jesus did not say to make converts, but disciples)

And yet in all cases where the apostles “preached” the gospel or made “disciples” there is not one instance of any of them inviting an unbeliever into the Temple or a “Home Church” in order to hear the gospel preached by others so they could be saved.

We are commanded to—openly proclaim something which has been done for us; AND to make disciples—teach others about the Jesus we know and who saved us. WE—not the preacher or minister at our church—WE are to go.

I have heard many say that they invite unbelievers to church services so that they can hear the gospel. I say that they need to repent of their laziness and proclaim the gospel themselves.

The role of the pastor is to to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12)  And also to give instruction in sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9) Nowhere does the Bible teach or even allude to the pastor having the responsibility of preaching the gospel to unbelievers—-that’s our job. The pastor’s job is to equip US; so that WE can go into the world and proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

In Haggai 2: 12-14 we read, ’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:12-14)

Let me put it this way: If you were recently showered and smelled fresh and clean, and attempted to hug a skunk—would the skunk smell fresh because of you, or would you begin to stink from the skunk? And if you were healthy and went to visit someone who had a contagious disease—would your healthiness make the sick person well, or would you become sick from the disease?

Christians today have this idea that if they invite an unbelieving friend to a church service and at the end of the service, their friend walks down in front of the congregation and parrots some prayer, that they have done their part. But the actions of some can sometimes be deceiving.

In Acts 8:13-24 Simon Magus professed to believe, and was baptized, yet he was declared to be in the bonds of iniquity. In Matthew 7:21 we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Many complain about how weak the Church has become. The reason is simple. First we invited unbelievers to worship with us a God that they don’t believe in; Then we wanted to make them feel more like part of us and accepted, so we invited them to join the choir, or teach Sunday school, or work in the nursery; And before we knew it, they were preaching doctrines of demons from our own pulpits!

In 1Corinthians 15:33 we read, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” And that is exactly what has happened in many congregations after inviting unbelievers into their church services.

I don’t know of any parent who would allow someone they don’t know anything about to care for their child—and yet, many people drop off their children to the church nursery or Sunday school class without knowing anything about the person watching over their children, or what they’re teaching them.

By now I know that there are many reading this who are shouting at their computer screen about the many people who were saved because they invited them to a church service.

I do believe that God can draw unbelievers into a church service by His spirit and get them saved right then and there. But I also believe that God’s spirit is not limited to only reaching people in a church service. I know of people who were saved at rock concerts—one at a Led Zeppelin concert, the other at a Black Sabbath concert! Many more have been saved from talking to Christians on the street, at work and at homeless shelters.

I am not suggesting that we post guards at the doors of our churches to test people for salvation. For even the apostle Paul was sensitive to the unbeliever who may be in the midst of the believing congregation:

“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul assumes that there exists a possibility of unbelievers in the midst of our church services, but nowhere does he advocate believers inviting them.

So how should we behave toward unbelievers? 

Should we like them? Hate them? Tolerate them? Do we act like them when we aren’t in Christian company? Or do we snub them if we don’t agree with their lifestyle?

Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine and declare how sinful unbelievers are. Others just don’t care one way or another…But shouldn’t we still be concerned about their salvation?

The Bible is very specific about how we as Christians, are to conduct ourselves toward the unbeliever: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

God wants us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward unbelievers. First and foremost, we need to keep focus on the cross of Christ. Because the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, forgiven us our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us. As we were once against God in our unbelief, God was gracious and kind to us. Because of that, we are able to be kind to others who don’t yet know Him.

It seems to me that the apostle Paul was more concerned about the sinfulness inside the Church than he was about unbelievers:

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Yes, we want to reach out to the world. Yes, we want to touch the world. Yes, we want to lead them to Christ. But we have to stop short of a full acceptance of their lifestyle which could lead to a spiritual disaster—for them and for us.

So let us go beyond the church walls, go out quickly to the streets of the city—to the “poor and crippled and blind and lame”, and  proclaim to them the gospel. THEN invite them to your church so that they can be discipled. Do this, and you will fulfill the great commission of our Lord.

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