By Scott McConnell
If I get into a rental car for a long drive, I adjust the audio to my preferences. A couple simple adjustments allow me to enjoy music in that car. If the car is set differently, it never really sounds right.
As we consider the message we share as church leaders today, there is a parallel. For many people in our culture today—both those in the church and outside—when our tone settings are off, they can’t really listen to our message.
Pastors often spend hours each week making sure the detail of each message is right, each exhortation is correct, and the wording of every point is truthful. But just as much care needs to be given to the habits of how the truth is shared.
More Explaining, Less Shouting
If you see someone struggling to swim, you can throw them a life preserver and shout at them to grab it. But they won’t reach for it until they understand they need it.
Too often, our first instinct is to shout at people when it comes to salvation. We share truths but often without the context of how those truths intersect with someone’s life. For example, “Jesus saves” is a true statement, but it doesn’t reveal why someone needs Jesus, or saving for that matter.In a post-Christian culture, our primary message to our community is not a reminder to return to faith. We are introducing people to God, often for the first time. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
In an instant, the Holy Spirit can open someone’s eyes to the truth of the gospel. But often, He doesn’t do this the first time someone hears it. Bumper stickers, billboards, and social media verse squares rarely bring people to the altar. Instead, loving patience to keep sharing truth with our neighbors is needed for them to actually listen.
In a post-Christian culture, our primary message to our community is not a reminder to return to faith. We are literally introducing people to God as He revealed Himself, often for the first time.
- 71% of the unchurched in America have never had a Christian explain to them how to become a Christian.
- 65% of the unchurched have never had a Christian explain the benefits of becoming a Christian.
- 67% of unchurched people have never had a Christian explain the benefits of participating in a local church.
Pastors have an opportunity in their sermons to explain the benefits of the gospel. Often, pastors land on a way to do this early in their ministry and don’t revisit their wording. However, there is a profound need to bring understanding to how and why an individual would want to come to Christ. So, great attention should be given to intentionally wording these explanations well for new ears.71% of the unchurched in America have never had a Christian explain to them how to become a Christian. Click To Tweet
Equipping the congregation to share the why and how of the gospel is not through a single class or one sermon series in a pastor’s tenure at a church. Equipping others to share the gospel is an ongoing need.
The opportunity to equip exists every week. Glorifying God together is the first reason we assemble. Encouraging specific words and phrases to explain the gospel correctly in the worship service each week not only helps non-believers who are present, but it also equip believers to say similar things to point others to Christ throughout their week. Also, stories of how individuals have benefited from a relationship with Christ can be told in worship and easily retold to friends.
Helping people remember understandable explanations of the gospel typically require several weeks of dedicated time. A class can present the outline, visual, and key points. Then people can work in between classes to commit key verses and their sequence to memory. Group time also provides opportunities to practice sharing the gospel naturally.
More Encouragement with Teaching
Among Americans who are unchurched but who have a Christian religious preference:
- 32% consider themselves a Christian, but not particularly devout,
- 31% consider themselves a Christian, but are not currently practicing it,
- 24% consider themselves a Christian with a strong faith, and
- 6% are questioning their faith.
Yes, many of the unchurched individuals in your community need to hear more truths about who God is (and is not). But many of them also need encouragement. They need encouragement to act on their faith. They need encouragement to give the church a second chance. They need encouragement to examine if God is worthy of devotion.Yes, many of the unchurched individuals in your community need to hear more truths about who God is (and is not). But many of them also need encouragement. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
A tone that is encouraging includes empathy. It acknowledges that what God asks of us is hard. It acknowledges that people have different starting places, some of which are situations where it is very hard to move. It acknowledges obstacles to following Christ.
Showing that your church is full of people who find obedience difficult, but they are trying anyway is encouraging. If you look around your church and find that life is easy for your congregation, then your church is likely not attracting new people. Church should not be a place only for those who have their lives neatly put together. The message of the gospel and the people who share it should highlight that Jesus’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.
To someone who has tried a lot of other masters in this life or who carries a large payload of worries, hurts, and doubts, those offering the gospel should sound like an encouraging and refreshing rest stop just across a new state line.
More Loving Actions
In our culture today, it seems Christians start with two strikes against them. To relieve that, an important part of our tone should be our actions within our community. When we are doing good works, at least in that moment, it is as if we don’t have those two strikes anymore.
Our tone in our community changes when we feed the hungry, provide clothing, provide foster care to children, care for those with unplanned pregnancies, offer help with addictions, volunteer at schools, and more.Outreach ministries of your church are not just areas of service. They are part of your message. — @smcconn Click To Tweet
In Peter’s first letter, he exhorts us to “conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day he visits” (1 Peter 2:12).
These outreach ministries of your church are not just areas of service. They are part of your message.
As we invest more in explaining, encouraging, and acting in love, the tone of our ministry will strike a better chord with people in our community, causing them to be more likely to listen to our message.
Scott is the executive director of Lifeway Research.