Continuing a quick jaunt through Andy Stanley’s guidelines for preaching to unchurched people, from his chapter on preaching in Deep and Wide.
Guideline 4: Give ’em permission not to believe . . . or obey.
Since the New Testament addresses believers with instruction, we are accountable to each other. But for some reason “Christians love to judge the behavior of non-Christians.” (This is strange considering Paul addresses the issue in 1Cor.5:12-13. So are we surprised when the world struggles to accept the judgment of people and a standard they have never acknowledged in the first place. Ok, I need to quote a bit more, following Col.4:5-6…
Like you, I’ve heard way too many messages addressed at nonbelievers that were full of salt seasoned with grace. That’s part of the reason so many unchurched people are just that: unchurched. I think we would be wise to extend Paul’s advice to our preaching. When addressing unbelievers, it should be all grace with just a pinch of salt.
So while there are expectations of believers, non-believers should be given an out. They are welcome guests, but they are not the target of instruction. And when they are given an out, then they may well lean in to discover more of how things work within this family they are visiting. In fact, they may even respond to invitation. But if they feel like they are being judged, critiqued, attacked or commanded, then there is a good chance their response will be less than favourable.
The next one will need more than the word count I have left, so I’ll keep you hanging until tomorrow, but it should provoke some thinking!