Sometimes we meet people in our churches who love attending Sunday morning services and weekly events but who are not trusting in Christ. They may see the fellowship as networking and the sermon as good advice for self-improvement.
They don't attend to worship God, encourage other believers in the faith or learn how God's Word says they should change their lives. They treat church as they would a country club—a place and group of people they find interesting.
The prophet Ezekiel ran into the same problem with some of the Israelites more than 2,500 years ago, when they were in exile in Babylon. They came to hear his message from God as if he were a novelty or an interesting speaker, but they failed to take action or personal responsibility.
The problem in Ezekiel's day is similar to the problem in our day: Many people have not trusted Christ for salvation. They are relying on their good works and religious efforts to give them acceptance with God.
Being able to distinguish between those who attend church for country club reasons and those who know God can be helpful in determining the direction of your conversations with them.
Here are five characteristics to help you recognize those who may attend church but not know the Lord. Caution! People will vary, so some of these may apply to a particular person while others do not.
1. They are more apt to talk about their relationship with their church than their relationship with Christ. The reason is obvious—their relationship with Christ may be nonexistent while their relationship with the church is something that they act upon weekly.
2. When they talk about the Lord, they use the generic term "God" more than referring to Jesus personally.
3. They are more comfortable speaking about spiritual things at an abstract level than at a practical level. They may talk about how Christian morals affect their thinking but not how Christ affects their daily behavior.
4. If you ask them, "Have you trusted Christ as your only way to heaven?" or "Do you know that if you were to die, you'd go to heaven?" they become intimidated and defensive.
5. They mention what they've done for the church more often than they mention what they are learning from Scripture. More than likely they are not studying the Word on a daily basis.
Part of reaching someone is knowing who they are. Many may think they are spiritual or good people based on their morals or church attendance, but these five points will help you determine what their relationship with Christ truly is.
If you sense you are talking to a person who is not actually saved, ask God for an open door to lovingly explain how he or she can be certain of eternal life. Then clearly explain that eternal life is a free gift that comes through a personal relationship with Christ, trusting him alone to save us.
This article is adapted from The Evangelism Study Bible, a product of EvanTell, a ministry that trains and equips Christians to share the gospel clearly and simply. Dr. Larry Moyer is the founder and CEO. For more information about EvanTell, please visit evantell.org.
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