Confession: As a pastor, I often find it difficult to balance ministry to those inside and outside the church.
If you attend church, you have certain expectations of your pastor. You want him to preach the Word, visit you when you are sick, be present at major life events, know your name, attend your class parties, provide a meaningful worship service in your preferred style, and dress in a respectful way befitting your tradition.
I assure you, most pastors want to meet your expectations, because most pastors want you to like them, and they genuinely love you. I’m one of those pastors. But this is why I find ministry a difficult balance. It’s often the case that expectations of those inside the church differ greatly from those outside the church.
For example—preaching. I want to go deep in the Word of God and expound on biblical truths. But I also recognize that every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday, so I want to include comments to a post-Christian audience that might not always apply to the more mature believer. This requires . . . balance.
So is it true with worship service styles and dress attire. What some perceive as reverent and respectful is viewed by others as stuffy and old-fashioned. If I spend too much time greeting new people on a Sunday morning, the “regulars” feel slighted. If I spend too much time talking to the “regulars,” the new people feel neglected. This, too, requires . . . balance.
What’s the solution? A church where everyone is on the same mission. We see everything we do as geared toward our mission of making disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). Our “inreach” (shepherding and pastoral care) is for the purpose of strengthening the flock for greater “outreach” to our community and world.
We are called on by Scripture not to make it difficult for people to believe (Acts 15:19). Have you ever stopped to consider why Jesus was infuriated with the moneychangers in the temple (Mark 11:15-19)? It was because they had taken the only space Gentiles had to encounter the God of Israel and turned it into a convenience store for the saved.
God established the Court of the Gentiles as a place where non-believers could easily observe the Israelites in worship. It was intended to be a house of prayer for all the nations (Mark 11:17), but it became an oriental bazaar and a cattle mart to make it easier for Jews to buy and sell for their worship.
D. Greear writes, “Having a place to change money and buy and sell sacrifices so close to the altar was very convenient for believers and served their needs well, but it kept outsiders from being able to see what was going on” (Gaining by Losing, 89).
If Jesus felt this way about worship in the temple, would he not feel the same about our worship in church buildings today? Do we focus more on our convenience than reaching people in our community? Do our “inside” goals of comfort create roadblocks for those “outside” our walls and relationships?
May we never block someone’s path to Christ. There should be only one potential hindrance to faith, and that is Christ crucified, “a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Anything more than this is an unnecessary obstacle for which one day we will be held accountable.