Several years ago I had the privilege of being in a great church service on a trip away from home.
The worship was dynamic, the people were friendly, the message was biblical and engaging, the sense of the presence of God was genuine.
As I drove away, I thought, “What a great church! I feel filled-up and ready to take on the week! It’s a shame they won’t have any impact on their community – not if they keep doing things the way they're currently doing them."
Why would I think that if the church was as great as I described?
Because everything the church did was inward-looking not outward-reaching.
(This post has generated a lot of feedback. For my response, read my follow-up post, Why Was I So Hard On That Church I Visited?)
Do The Great Commandment And The Great Commission
They had half the recipe right. The half that will keep insiders happy, even growing in their faith. They were doing the Great Commandment.
But they were missing the other half. The Great Commission. The half that reaches out to a community that could use a large dose of what they were offering.
In fact, not only did they show no evidence of reaching out, they were making it very hard for anyone who wasn’t an insider to get connected.
Welcome, If You Can Find Us
For starters, I drove past the church twice without seeing it. It was tucked in behind a grove of trees, with only one old, small sign on the street. And it was being consumed by the forest. When I asked about it, I was told, “everyone knows where we are.”
After driving in, I pulled into what I hoped was a parking spot, then wandered around a peeling-paint building until I tugged on what I thought was the front door, only to find it locked. Again, “everyone” was supposed to know where the front door was.
Once I got inside, pushing my way past friends chatting in the doorway, the people were warm and welcoming.
During the service, they did several things that were unique to their worship style, without any explanation about why they were doing it. Even though I was familiar enough with this type of church to know what was going on, without an explanation even I was taken aback a couple times.
They used insider language – language I understood, but most newcomers would not.
And that’s a shame. Because the meat of the service – the worship, preaching and fellowship – was done really well. But almost no one else in their community will ever know about it.