Christmas is always a busy, exciting time for churches. Most of us know these realities, but I'm convinced we increasingly need these reminders during this season:
- Not everybody knows the story of Jesus. They may have heard something about the baby in Bethlehem because it's Christmas, but there likely are people living within the shadows of our churches that know nothing more about Him.
- Some people have been taught wrong stuff about Jesus. I'm particularly thinking about followers of other world faiths. They've come to their conclusions about Jesus honestly if all they know is what their religion has taught them.
- Some people equate Jesus with an oppressive, judgmental church. Let's be honest—the church hasn't always spoken the truth of God's holiness and judgment in the most helpful way. Non-believers sometimes see Jesus in the same light.
- Many people who return to church at Christmas are giving us one opportunity to speak to them. Sure, they may be back next Christmas—but we have this singular time to make sure they hear the gospel and sense the love of the Christ child. Let's not miss that opportunity.
- We cannot only rejoice at the numbers of people who return to church at Christmas; we must also grieve those who give church no thought during this season. I fear that our excitement at Christmas attendance is primarily related to formerly churched people coming back for a Sunday—not never-churched people hearing the gospel.
- Many, many people will not come to church unless someone invites them. It's not accurate to assume that people naturally decide to go to church because it's Christmas. They come because somebody invites them.
- The extra steps we take to welcome crowds at Christmas ought to become routine for us. I'm flabbergasted at churches who enlist greeters, watch for guests, provide open seats and welcome people warmly during this season—but let it all go as soon as Christmas is over.
- Some folks who seldom come to church might be surprised by the people they discover actually do go to church. I've seen it happen: a Christmas guest is shocked to learn that their co-worker (or neighbor, etc.) who's ungodly during the week is godly on the weekend.
- The strength of what we do during Christmas will be evaluated by the months after this season. If our attendance increases only during these weeks, and no lives are changed, it's fair to ask if we've only "done the Christmas thing" this season.
What reminders do you think we need to hear?
Chuck Lawless is dean and vice-president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.
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