Yesterday we pondered issues of sensitivity in light of the presence of children. Here’s another area where we should always show sensitivity – how do we come across when non-Christians are listening?
Here are some areas to ponder –
1. How do we refer to them? I imagine a non-christian listening in to our preaching might be easily turned off if we aren’t careful how we refer to them. It seems like terminology such as pagan, heathen, outsiders, the spiritually dead and enemies of God might feel a bit harsh without some careful context setting. I tend to prefer terms like those who are not sure they are in God’s family, or just looking in from the outside, or visitors, or guests. Non–christians seems safe enough, but not if it is misunderstood. Understanding your context and your audience is vital here. How do you refer to the lost in your congregation?
2. How do we refer to us? Just as coming across with derogatory labels is not a good idea, nor is it wise to refer to believers in a way that might unnecessarily offend. For instance, you know that we are righteous by the declaration of God based entirely on the person and atoning work of Christ. But calling believers righteous, or saints, is more likely to insinuate that others present are evil and that we think we are better than them. What I am saying is that we need to be careful since visitors will almost certainly misunderstand careless references.
3. How do we speak to Christians? We tend to think in terms of how to target the unsaved with our preaching, but what about when a message, or part of a message, is really aimed at believers? Probably not a good idea to tell the “outsiders” to stop listening. I tend to say who I am addressing, and encourage visitors to listen in since we have nothing to hide.
How do you handle these things?