Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

Welcome All People to Your Church

Welcome <I>All</I> People to Your Church
If someone new visited your church this weekend and sat down right beside you, would you welcome that person? Before you automatically say "yes, of course," think about how you might feel if he or she practiced New Age rituals, campaigned in favor of abortion, or lived with a homosexual lover.

People who make you uncomfortable aren't your enemies. They're people Jesus loves. And He hopes those people will be welcomed into churches so they can develop relationships with Him.

Here are some ways you can welcome people who are living far from Christ:

  • Realize that no one is hopeless as far as God is concerned. His grace is strong enough to reach and transform anyone, no matter how they had been living before encountering God.

  • Remember that everyone is a child of God, made in His image. Therefore, every person is worthy of respect and love.

  • Refuse to be threatened by someone's lifestyle, no matter how destructive. Understand that behind the darkness is a person who is ultimately very unhappy and unfulfilled. Ask God to give you compassion for the person and wisdom to know how to share His story and His love with him or her.

  • Don't label people. Rather than categorizing them as "liberals" or "feminists," think of them primarily as human beings. Know that the underlying reason for their current alienation from God isn't certain political ideas; it's sin. Understand that they are people of God just as you are, except they aren't currently acting in ways that please Him. Devote your time and energy to pursuing relationships rather than agendas.

  • Wherever you speak out against sin, help people overcome it. Be clear about God's moral standards and don't compromise them, but at that same time, offer ministries to those currently living in darkness. For example, rather than simply preaching against sexual immorality, serve people in the community who are suffering from AIDS.

  • Genuinely listen to people living in sin. Take an interest in their lives and seek to understand their perspectives. Affirm any beliefs they have that are biblical, such as a New Ager's concern for the environment.

  • When talking with people about God, use persuasion rather than force. Pray for them; that's how the real power will come into their lives.

  • Accept diversity. Know that God loves diversity because He has designed His creation to be diverse. Understand that someone's personal preferences can differ from yours, but he or she can still be living biblically. For example, don't expect all Christians to necessarily vote Republican or have large families.

  • Offer a dynamic sense of community in which God's unconditional love is always present, as well as encouragement and support to grow in holiness.

Adapted from Who is my Enemy? Welcoming People the Church Rejects, copyright 2002 by Rich Nathan. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich.,, 1-800-727-3480.

Rich Nathan is pastor of a 5,000-member church in Columbus, Oh., serves on the national executive board of his denomination, and speaks widely in the United States and abroad. He holds a law degree from Ohio State University, where he taught business law at the undergraduate and graduate levels. He is coauthor of Empowered Evangelicals and a contributor to many Christian magazines.

What challenges do you face when you interact with people who are alienated from God? If you've recently been able to successfully reach out to someone living in sin, how did you do so, and how did God help you? Do you think your church is a welcoming place for all people? Why or why not? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.