"The church must recapture its identity as the only organization in the world that exists for the sake of its non-members."
So wrote Harvie Conn in his book, Evangelism: Doing Justice and Preaching Grace.
What if we recaptured that identity?
What would it look like for a church to exist for the sake of those who are not believers?
How would we engage our community?
How would we speak?
What would we assume about people who are not Christians?
What I want Christians to assume is that no one needs the grace of God in Jesus more than we do.
Because the church is not for those who are good, but for those who need grace.
It is not for the strong but for the weak.
It is not for the able but the helpless.
It is for us. And it is for them.
Because Jesus came for us and for them.
All it takes is for the Spirit to exercise regenerating grace by raising someone from spiritual death to new life.
At that point, they, too, repent, believe, and become one of us. They join the fellowship of the cross.
Let us never forget this, lest we become a church merely for us.
If that happens, sadly, we’ll grow spiritually proud, and then cold, putting a low priority on the church’s primary mission of gospel ambassadorship.
The truth is, at one time, all of us were them. Thankfully, someone left the light on and the door open so that we could find welcome in a place where only the unworthy are made members.
I understand Ray Ortlund would say at the beginning of each Sunday service for Emmanuel Church outside of Nashville something like this:
To all who are weary and need rest;
To all who mourn and long for comfort;
To all who feel worthless and wonder if God even cares;
To all who are weak and fail and desire strength;
To all who sin and need a Savior —
This church opens wide her doors with a welcome from Jesus,
the mighty friend of sinners and justifier of those who have no excuses left.
That's me. I bet that's you, too.
So, let’s be Christians who leave the light on and the door open, and never be surprised by who walks in.
- How does the idea that "the church exists for the sake of its non-members" challenge the conventional focus of many modern churches? How can this perspective change the way church members interact with their surrounding community?
- In practical terms, what are some steps a church could take to prioritize kingdom-oriented, grace-motivated mission?
- Reflecting on the quote from Ray Ortlund, how might a church community demonstrate the welcome and acceptance described there to all who come through its doors, regardless of their background or current struggles?
- Discuss the importance of never being surprised by who walks in. How can we make this a reality?