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FIRST-PERSON: An uncomfortable question

POWDERSVILLE, S.C. (BP) — I went to the nearby convenience store to get a Mountain Dew and came back with so much more.

Our church is located in a rural community. Everybody in this area uses that store from time to time. On this particular evening, though, no one else was in the store. So I asked the man behind the counter his name and if he had a church home.

He told me his name was Harry and that he was a Hindu by religion. He was very friendly and open to our conversation. I invited him to our church and explained where it was.

Then he said something that surprised me a little: “Many of my customers go to that church.”

How did he know that? Perhaps they, too, have been inviting him to church. He assured me that he would come visit us soon.

On the way home, I began to wonder: What if he and his family do show up? Will they feel welcome? Will they understand our service? Then there was an uncomfortable question that I had to ask myself: Are our services focused on those who desperately need the Gospel or are our services focused on those who are already Christians?

All churches have to wrestle with that tension, don’t they? I’ve pastored for 30 years, but that night I started thinking through each segment of our worship service. As I did, I asked one simple question: If Harry were to come to church this Sunday, would he hear the Gospel in a way that he could understand it? I’m glad that we are an inviting church, and I hope that we are a friendly church, but we need to be more than that. We need to be a church where a Hindu can hear the Gospel presented clearly and lovingly when he shows up.

I’ll bet you have someone like that in your community as well. He may or may not be a Hindu, but there are probably lots of folks around your church who need the Gospel. Ask yourself the uncomfortable question: As you worship this Sunday, if someone like Harry shows up, are they going to hear how Jesus can change their lives? To put it another way, does your church have an outward focus? I hope so.

Each Sunday, I’m going to be looking for my new Hindu friend and reminding myself to talk clearly and simply about the cross. Please pray for Harry and for the people around your church who are just like him.

    About the Author

  • Keith Shorter

    Keith Shorter is pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention. This column first appeared in the Baptist Courier (www.baptistcourier.com), the convention’s newsjournal.

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