10 Lessons About Leading the Lord’s Church I’ve Learned the Hard Way

By Joe McKeever

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, it’s not what one might expect.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

Small churches can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

Trying to get a huge church to change its way of thinking can be like turning around an ocean liner.  Even so, the Lord’s teachings about the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 17:6) should forever disabuse us of the lust for bigness.

I will spare you the horror stories of pastors who have manipulated God’s people and lied about numbers in order to create the illusion of bigness.  Forgive us, Father!

Two. Lack of formal education in the preacher is no excuse.

The pastor of the small church often has far less formal training and education than he would like. As a result, he often feels inferior to his colleagues with seminary degrees. I have two thoughts on that…

One.  It’s a mistake.  He can be as smart as they are and more if he applies himself.  Let the Lord’s preachers not be overly impressed by certificates on the wall or titles before their name.

Two.  He can get more formal education if he’s willing.  Some of our seminaries have online programs that make seminary education practical and affordable.

My dad, a coal miner, had to leave school after the 7th grade. But he never quit learning.  He took courses and read constantly. When God took him to Heaven, Dad was almost 96. Our mom had to cancel four or five magazine subscriptions he was still taking and reading.

Some of the finest preachers of God’s word I’ve ever known have had little formal theological education.

Three.  There are no lone rangers or solo acts on the Lord’s team.

He sent them out two by two. (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1)

The preacher who says pastors are not allowed to have friends and thus shuts himself off from colleagues in ministry has bought into a lie from hell that causes him to deceive himself and limit his ministry.  While a pastor may choose not to have close friends among his own members, there is every reason for him to make friends with other pastors and ministers who serve the Lord well.  Failing to do so limits himself and hurts the kingdom work.

Furthermore, he must have co-workers alongside him. Paul needed Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and many others. Read the last chapter of I Corinthians and ask God to forgive you for trying to do this work alone.

Four. Doing a job by yourself is easier than enlisting and training someone else, but it’s violating your calling.

“Make disciples,” said our Lord.  That mandate calls for us to help people come into the kingdom, then nurture and grow them to the point they will know the Word, can share the Word, and can make disciples of others.

Barnabas did not find it convenient to leave Antioch and travel to Tarsus “to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25).  But in doing so, he connected the man called as an evangelist to the Gentiles with the opportunity of a lifetime.  We are forever grateful to the best disciplemaker in Scripture, Barnabas!

Five. I cannot lead people to do what I’m not doing.

God did not send me to be a talker, but a doer. Not as a coach only, but as a player-coach.  It is enough for the disciple to become like the teacher, said our Lord.

So, as a pastor and church leader, my job is to show them how. Not just tell them.  (James 1:22 and I John 3:18).

Six.  Not only is it hard to get started tithing my income or sharing my faith (and a hundred other discipleship things), God likes it that way.

Watch the butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.  The struggle, we are told, is a necessary part of its development.

Only people of faith and determination will set out to learn to tithe and witness and understand the Bible, then stay with it  until they are able to do it well.  Everyone else drops by the wayside, intending to wait until it’s easy.  In doing so, they’re asking for and expecting what never was and never shall be.  “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

The members of your church need to be reminded that God does not need their money.  He is not suffering from a cash flow problem. God is trying to grow disciples.  That accounts for the hundreds of teachings on money in the Word. When are we ever going to understand this? When are preachers going to quit fearing criticism and teach stewardship until people do it!

Seven.  God makes His leaders servants, not bosses or lords or bigshots.

I keep running into husbands who want to lord it over their wives because “God made me the head of the home and told you to submit!” Such men may call themselves believers, but they are pagan to the heart and have probably never been saved. They certainly don’t know the first thing about God’s word or Jesus’ heart.  If they did, they would know that they are sent as servants. “Even so, Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

Bullies on the playground or dictators in the pulpit are cancers on the body, and must not be tolerated.  The parable of all parables on this subject is Luke 17:7-10.  We must keep saying to ourselves–even when we have done everything Jesus required– “I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty.”

Eight.  The more righteous we are, the less we will be aware of it.  “Moses knew not that his face did shine” (Exodus 34:29).

I said to the 75-year-old saint in our church, “Marguerite, you are the most Christ-like person I know.”  She didn’t flinch.  “Oh honey,” she said to her young minister, “if you only knew.”  I did know, in a way, but have learned a hundred times since:  Those closest to the Lord are the last to know it. The nearer to the light we get, the more imperfections and blemishes we will see.

Beware of ever thinking you have arrived. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Nine. The Lord’s servants who serve well are going to run into the buzz saw of opposition from the nay-sayers, do-nothings, status-quo lovers, and carnal. That’s no fun, but it’s not all bad.

Reading the mandate of the disciples in Matthew 10:16ff, we cannot say we were not warned.  But it has ever been this way.  We are swimming upstream in a downstream world.

Jesus prepared us for this by saying that whoever receives us is receiving Him, whoever listens to us is listening to Him, and whoever rejects us is rejecting Him. (See Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16.).  If being treated like Jesus is not enough for us, we’re in the wrong calling.

Ten.  Not only does the Lord allow His choice servants to suffer sometimes, He even plans for that to happen. See Matthew 10:16ff.

Caesar ain’t coming to  your revival, preacher. So, the Lord is going to be needing someone to get arrested for preaching. Then, when the high and mighty ruler has to decide on this case, he will order the saint in chains to “tell us what you’ve been preaching.” That’s how it worked with Paul (see 2 Timothy 4:16-17), and how it has been with His choice servants ever since.

When Paul and Silas were falsely charged, then beaten and jailed, even though their backs were open wounds and they were hungry, tired, and hurting, “about midnight, they began praying and singing hymns of praise to God. And the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)  They’re always listening and watching when God’s people suffer unjustly.  That’s a fact which God uses to reach many for Himself.

No one wants to suffer.  No one volunteers to hurt. But sometimes it’s the only way.

What God’s faithful must never do is groan and bellyache and say, “Why me, Lord?”  Your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave  you.  Early believers rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer.  (See Acts 5:41).


A Call to Sound Doctrine: The Pastor’s Job Description

By Paul Tautges

The apostle Paul’s ministry offers an ideal model for today’s pastor, but I fear it’s one many churches today have lost sight of.

Consider Paul’s goals: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28, NASB).

He sought the spiritual maturity of every believer—Christlikeness. To this end the apostle employed Christ-centered proclamation and the teaching of biblical wisdom, of which Christ is the embodiment (Col. 2:3). So should we.

Sadly, evangelical churches today don’t share these priorities. Instead, there’s a noticeable shift away from theology toward something closer to therapy.


According to the Bible, pastors must prioritize teaching doctrine so that congregations learn to think theologically. Jesus commands us to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” [1] The noun form simply means “doctrine.” [2] Paul likewise says that elders possess oversight in order to protect against wolves “speaking twisted things” (Acts 20:30). They’re to equip the saints for the building up of the body, less church members be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

And so, teaching doctrine was a high priority in the early church. The believers described in the early chapter of Acts were “continually devoting themselves to . . . teaching”—that is, to doctrine (Acts 2:42)

The Thessalonians, too, responded to the gospel with eagerness and applied it to their lives. Paul writes, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:6–7).


Evangelical pastors today, however, have shown less interest in teaching theology and more interest in offering therapy. One scholar studied thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly its column “A Layman and His Faith,” and then offered this conclusion:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness. [3]

This shift has had disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. Any time the rock-solid foundation of the Word is displaced believers will be washed out to sea. Theologian David Wells even noticed this thirty years ago:

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant. [4]

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to an experience-based form of Christianity.


When feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God through the application of sound doctrine, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. It’s indispensable to the disciple-making process because doctrine protects, builds up, and nourishes believers (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek literally means “hygienic” and “health-giving.” [5] It cleanses the mind and feeds the body.

Conversely, bad doctrine undermines faith and damages believers. Church shepherds must therefore be discerning and not allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate the church and redirect the eyes of believers off Christ and onto self (see Acts 20:28-32).


Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys the body. It kills the church from the inside out, whether it’s preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the counseling room. The apostles warned of “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18).

Gangrene is a deadly disease. Spreading throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Consider this as an analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out.


Church shepherds must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our teaching ministry: “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” says Paul (Titus 2:1).

A basic requirement of being an elder, he instructs, is the ability “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

As believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think about everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed, and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting:

A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology. [6]

If we’re committed to biblical shepherding, we must take doctrine seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

Author’s note: This article is drawn in part from Paul’s book, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding (Shepherd Press, 2018).

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985), p. 619.

[2] Ibid., p. 180.

[3] David F. Wells, No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 209–210.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Os Guiness, “America’s Last Men and Their Magnificent Talking Cure,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15/2 (1997), p. 23.

[6] Gary Johnson, “Does Theology Still Matter?” in John Armstrong, (ed.), The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), p. 57

By Paul Tautges

Article originally posted on 9marks.org.

Paul Tautges is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

When a Pastor’s Child Strays

By David Gough

I recently met up with an old friend. We’d served together in local church ministry, but hadn’t seen each other in several years. After he accepted a pastoral call to another state, we’d fallen out of touch. There were the occasional email exchanges and the annual Christmas card, but nothing more.

It was great to see him. But as we prepared to say our goodbyes, the conversation suddenly took on a somber tone. “Can I ask you to pray about something?” he asked. Tears began to fill his eyes; his normally strong voice faltered. He apologized, and then took a moment to compose himself. Over the next several minutes he told me about the heartbreaking story about his son who had recently walked away from the faith.

Sadly, I’d heard my friend’s story before. Another pastor’s kid, gone. Raised in a Christian home, seemingly trusting Christ at an early age, memorizing Scripture, serving as a leader in youth group, participating in mission activities—the story was all too familiar. Almost overnight and without much warning, his son had an epiphany: he no longer believed any of this stuff. The gospel and the claims of Christianity no longer made sense to him, if they ever really had at all.


I write not as a mere observer or sympathized, but as a father and a pastor who prays for his own wayward children. How desperately I long for them to embrace the faith they were taught and had imperfectly modeled for them. I’ve waited for years for the Lord to call them to Himself, even as I struggle with my own sense of failure in their having chosen the course of life they’re presently pursuing. What could my wife and I have done differently? How might we have made the gospel more appealing? The sense of guilt I sometimes feel, whether legitimate or not, is at times overwhelming.

Ministry is hard enough when things are going well. But it becomes doubly difficult when the path chosen by our prodigals withdraws from the Lord and weighs heavily upon us. Brothers, we need others to help us press on when the burden becomes too heavy to bear alone. Perhaps the following reminders will prove helpful in providing support and reshaping our perspective.

1. Don’t try and go it alone.

Surround yourself with a band of faithful and prayerful men. Perhaps this will mean the elders of your church with whom you serve. Or perhaps it will be a small group of fellow pastors that you’ve grown to trust. These should be men with whom you’re willing to be vulnerable and transparent, those who will not judge you or add to the guilt and pain you already feel.

Be willing to receive appropriate criticism when it is offered by other faithful men. You’ll likely discover that your situation isn’t as “unique” as you imagined, that you’re not as alone in the pain you feel. As these fellow brothers help you to reframe your perspective, the path forward will become more bearable. Though the recovery of your children won’t be immediate, you will enjoy a clearer view of the One whose hands hold much-needed mercy and grace.

2. Don’t fake it with your people.

Church members tend instinctively to look up to their pastors. They consider them either immune from or having overcome the daily problems that they so regularly face. This is perhaps especially true in matters of the home. Because of this, pastors may feel the need to mask the struggles that come with wayward children. They think this helps this ministry, but in reality it more likely hinders it.

As pastors, we shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to reveal our own parenting imperfections. We shouldn’t downplay the disappointing outcomes for the sake of protecting our reputations. Even the most respected man of God has “feet of clay,” and we should not yield to the temptation of pretending that we don’t. It can be altogether appropriate to admit that we are hurting, and to ask for prayer for ourselves and our families. Consider discretely weaving brief vignettes of your own parenting struggles into an occasional sermon, being cautious not to say too much. But a word of caution is fitting here: we should exercise care in not doing this too frequently or too vehemently, lest we’re guilty of soliciting sympathy for ourselves.

3. Never stop loving your children—really loving them.

Despite what some people think, pastors don’t have “all the answers.” Nor do we think we have all the answers. Privately, we know that all too well, but publicly we sometimes don’t like admitting it. Rarely can we discern what God is doing “behind the scenes.” That’s true in the lives of our children, perhaps especially when they’re “far from home.” So resist blaming a specific cause, and instead receive the troubling providence as a humbling lesson from the Lord.

Nonetheless, our love for them must not be allowed to fade. Nor should it be conditionally dispensed. Warmly embracing our offspring while not condoning their chosen lifestyle is a practiced skill—and it must not be faked. If we hope to keep the communication lines open for the gospel, we must learn to love them well even as they stray.

It’s at this point where pastors sometimes veer off course in their emotion-laden appeals to their wayward children. Consider how the Lord pursued us when we were in the “far country,” and how his consistent love eventually drew us to himself (Luke 15:11–32). We owe our children no less. Therefore, let us continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them faith and repentance so that they would turn from sin and embrace the Savior.

4. Don’t let go of the grace of God.

We have have no assurances that our children will ever be brought to saving faith. But we do know with absolute certainty that the God we serve is good and perfect in all his ways. He is merciful and just. As we persistently plead with our Heavenly Father to spare and to save these precious ones whom we love, may our dependent confidence in him never fade. He alone is our hope and in him alone do we trust.

In the closing words of Malachi’s prophecy, we are told that the Lord “will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). Of course, that’s not a carte blanche promise that God will save every pastor’s child who has abandoned the faith. Some he will save; their waywardness will end in their salvation. Others he will not; their waywardness will end in their destruction.

So the question that remains for us is a difficult one: will we continue to serve the Lord faithfully with no strings attached . . . even those that are tied to our very hearts?

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). This assurance gives hope to both my friend and myself as we pray without ceasing for our children to come home.

David Gough is the former pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD, a local body he served for 13 years. Prior to that he served as the Chairman of the Educational Ministries Department at Washington Bible College for 25 years.
Article originally posted on 9Marks.org

The Holy Spirit: Who He Is, What He Does, & Why You Should Care

Until now there has not been a comprehensive guide to understanding the Holy Spirit and His role in contemporary language for the average person. Many Christians feel that understanding the Holy Spirit is beyond their ability. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In this updated and rewritten guide to The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, Barry Davis and R.A. Torrey consistently and thoroughly present the third member of the Trinity in a way that anyone can grasp. The reader will learn more about the Holy Spirit and His role in our personal lives, the church, and the world at large than he or she could have ever imagined.

In seventeen inspirational chapters the authors describe:
*The Personality of the Holy Spirit
* The Deity of the Holy Spirit
* The Distinctive Role of the Holy Spirit in the Godhead (Trinity)
* The Person & Work of the Holy Spirit as Revealed in His Names
* Holy Spirit Convicting the World of Sin, Righteousness, & Judgment
* The Holy Spirit Bearing Witness to Jesus Christ
* The Regenerating Work of the Holy Spirit
* The Indwelling Spirit Fully & Forever Satisfying
* The Holy Spirit Forming Christ Within Us
* The Holy Spirit & Sonship
* The Holy Spirit as Teacher
* Praying, Returning Thanks, & Worshiping in the Holy Spirit
* The Holy Spirit Sending People Out to do Works of Service
* The Holy Spirit’s Anointing Over the Individual Christian’s Life
* The Holy Spirit Gives Power & Gifts to His Followers
* The Work of the Holy Spirit in Prophets & Apostles
* The Work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ

Available in KINDLE and PAPERBACK.

Here’s The Best Way You Can Help A Small Church Pastor Today

Ministry is hard. Small church ministry is relentless. Doing it alone is impossible.

By Karl Vaters

Small church pastors labor under a great deal of discouragement.

They work unbelievably long hours (often full-time at a paying job in addition to pastoral ministry) with very little money (many supplement the church from their bivocational pay) and very little encouragement.

They are the unsung and unseen warriors of the church.

So, if you’re in a position to help a small church pastor, here’s what we need from you more than anything else.

How To Reach Out

If you’re

  • A member of a small church
  • A deacon/elder at a small church
  • A denominational official
  • A seminary professor
  • A church growth writer or speaker
  • A pastor at another church, whether large or small
  • A family member of a small church pastor

Or in any other position of influence and relationship with a small church pastor, I want to ask a favor of you.

Want to help a small church pastor? Just listen to us.

Call up a small church pastor you know. Offer to buy them coffee, lunch or something else that fits their very tight schedule. Don’t give up if they’re hard to pin down (we’ve been burned by offers of “help” before, so many of us are wary of this.)

Then, when you sit down with them, do one thing.

Shut up and listen.

That’s all.

Just Listen

Want to help a small church pastor?

  • Don’t talk about your latest successes
  • Don’t tell us what you think we need to hear
  • Don’t give us a copy of the latest church growth book
  • Don’t tell us about when you were a small church pastor before your church grew
  • Don’t tell us what we must be doing wrong
  • Don’t tell us how much you admire our sacrifice
  • Don’t condescend to us
  • Don’t try to fix us

Just listen to us.

The Value Of Listening

Ask us what we’re going through.

Listen to our joys, our challenges, our frustrations, our anger and our hopes.

Let us vent.

Don’t correct us when we say something you disagree with. Wounded people always say stupid things that we don’t even believe ourselves. But we need to say it, anyway.

Cry with us, laugh with us, celebrate with us, get angry with us. Pray with us.

Then, after a few weeks pass, call us again and repeat the entire process one more time.

Not so you can earn the right to be heard. Not so you can get enough information to know how to “really” help us. Just because knowing that someone is listening is valuable all by itself.

Together In Ministry

We need you.

Not your advice, your ideas, or your newest church growth methods.

Just you.

We need you. Not your advice, your ideas, or your newest church growth methods. Just you.

And you need us.

Not as a project to fix, a problem to solve, or a church to rescue.

But as friends. As family. As peers in ministry.

If we have a question, help us answer it. If we share a need, help us meet it. If we have advice for you, listen to it. And if we have questions we want to ask you, answer them honestly and lovingly.

Ministry is hard. Small church ministry is relentless.

Doing it alone is impossible.

Knowing you’re there for us is a treasure.

“This article first appeared on ChristianityToday.com on 07/12/2019. Used by permission of Christianity Today, Carol Stream, IL 60188.”


Six Reasons Your Church Welcome Ministry Is More Important Than Ever

By Thom Rainer

“We are the friendliest church in town.”

That sentence or something very similar is the most common statement we’ve heard in interviews we conducted with church members during consultations. Most people active in a church really do think their church is friendly. These members have relationships and interactions that give them that perceived reality.

But when we interview guests of the same churches, we hear a different story. These guests often think the members are “unfriendly” or “cliquish.” They don’t have the established relationships members have. They are not familiar with the church facilities. They don’t know what to expect.

The church welcome ministry (or whatever your church calls it) has always been important. But the ministry is more important today than it’s ever been. Look at six reasons this level of importance has risen.

1. Church members are returning to church after a long absence. The pandemic kept them away. Many have returned, but not all have. Some are easing back into church cautiously and slowly. It is critical for the welcome ministry to encourage these returning members to get back into a rhythm and habit of gathering regularly.

2. More new guests are arriving. During the quarantine, a number of new residents moved into your community. They have not had an opportunity to visit a church, but they are ready now. For some unchurched people, the angst of the COVID era has them asking questions about God, church, and faith. Some will show up at your church.

3. Context has changed. Yes, the world has changed. The local church is a microcosm of some of the contextual changes of our society. Specifically, the ways we greet people in many contexts have changed. Hugs are mostly out. Handshakes are in some places and out in others. The availability of visible sanitizers is necessary in most churches. Those who participate in the welcome ministry are aware of the best ways to greet guests.

4. First impressions are more important than ever. Because some of the guests have not been in a church for months, perhaps even a few years, the first few moments they arrive on the church property are critical. They could return repeatedly, or they could decide it’s not worth the risk and effort.

5. Few church members are naturally welcoming to guests. They naturally gravitate to people they know. They may be uncertain if a person is a guest or a member they don’t know. Leaders can exhort church members to be friendly, but the challenge for it to happen will always be there. The welcome ministry fills this void, and the void has been exacerbated during the pandemic.

6. It is biblical. While we don’t see a formal welcome ministry per se in the Bible, the importance of hospitality is clear and powerful. For example, “When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13). Additionally, Paul’s qualifications for church leaders include hospitality (see 1 Timothy 3:2-3).

Your church’s welcome ministry has always been important. But it is likely it is more important than ever.

What is your church doing for its welcome ministry? I would love to hear from you.


This article was originally published at ChurchAnswers.com. Thom S. Rainer serves as founder and CEO of Church Answers. Dr. Rainer publishes a daily blog and podcast at ChurchAnswers.com and can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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