Q&A with Thom Rainer | Becoming a Welcoming Church

Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and author of the new book Becoming a Welcoming Church. Matt O’Reilly of Orthodoxy for Everyone (OFE) recently asked Thom six questions about the book. And check out Matt’s video review of Becoming a Welcoming Church at the end of the interview.

  1. What prompted you to write Becoming a Welcoming Church?
    It was one of the key topics that kept being discussed at my podcast, my blog, and ChurchAnswers.com.
  2. Several times in the book you mention the relationship between evangelism and being a welcoming church. How does intentional focus on becoming a welcoming church help us lead people to Jesus?
    A welcoming church is an outwardly-focused church. An outwardly-focused church is more likely to have opportunities for gospel conversations.
  3. What are the dangers of not being a welcoming church?
    The members will become inwardly-focused and miss opportunities to share the gospel. Also, guests will not return.
  4. What’s the difference between a friendly church and a welcoming church?
    A friendly church loves to take care of its members. A welcoming churches also loves those on the outside.
  5. If a church has little or no focused attention on welcoming guests, what are the most important first steps?
    Get your church’s website to be welcoming website for guests. That’s where they come first. Then train members to become welcoming members.
  6. What is the pastor’s role in becoming a welcoming church?
    Be the example. Keep the importance of becoming a welcoming church before the members.

Buy Becoming a Welcoming Church on Amazon.

Dr. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, AL, a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

For more from Matt, be sure to subscribe to the Orthodoxy for Everyone YouTube Channel, listen to SermonCast, connect on Facebook, and follow @mporeilly.

When is a church not a church? | Mulholland on Revelation #UMC

The book of Revelation is full of practical application for today’s church. One of my favorite things about Bob Mulholland’s commentary on Revelation is the attention he gives to the formative power of the Apocalypse. One good example of this comes in his analysis of the letter to the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. Mulholland observes that, according to Acts 19-20, when the gospel first came to Ephesus, believers responded in a way that carried significant impact in the city, economic not least. They believed the gospel and they behaved in a way that brought the implications of the gospel to bear on the city of Ephesus. But by the time Revelation is written, while the Ephesians still believe the right things (Rev 2:2), they have lost their first love (Rev 2:4). They remain orthodox, but they’re no longer evangelistic. So Mulholland says

…we see that orthodoxy and evangelism are the inseparable foci of a healthy church. Both must be kept in dynamic balance. Evangelism without orthodoxy becomes a tolerant pluralism and results in a community formed around diffuse human values and criteria. Orthodoxy without evangelism becomes a cold, harsh legalism and results in a community formed around debilitating “do’s and don’ts.” Sound orthodoxy and fervent evangelism result in a community of faith whose growing wholeness of life is a powerful witness of the cleansing, healing, liberating life in Christ to a soiled, wounded, and imprisoned world (435).

Mulholland seems to be using the language of evangelism to refer broadly to the various ways churches might engage their community in ministry, even though that language typically refers to a clear articulation of the truth of the gospel and a call to faith in Jesus. In any case, his point is made. And some may think he doesn’t go far enough, since there are segments of some denominations that are neither orthodox nor evangelistic.

Commitment to truth is important, but it’s not enough. And that commitment must translate into action. Likewise, engaging the culture must be grounded in truth. If it isn’t, there are consequences. Jesus commanded the church in Ephesus to remember and do the works they did at first (Rev 2:5). If they do not, he will remove their lampstand. That is, their status as a church. What’s the point? A church that doesn’t maintain the balance between orthodoxy and evangelism will not long be a church. And that, of course, raises another question. When is a church no longer a church?

Have you ever been in a church setting that did a good job keeping the balance between evangelism and orthodoxy ? A church that did not? What are the keys to keeping the balance? Why do churches struggle to keep that balance? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and experience.

Get your copy of Revelation by Robert Mulholland.

Dr. Matt O’Reilly is pastor of Hope Hull United Methodist Church near Montgomery, AL, a fellow of the Center for Pastor Theologians, and Adjunct Professor of New Testament and Pastoral Ministry at Wesley Biblical Seminary.

For more from Matt, be sure to subscribe to the Orthodoxy for Everyone YouTube Channel, listen to SermonCast, connect on Facebook, and follow @mporeilly.