African gazelles can jump over a ten foot fence, but they can be contained at a zoo behind a six foot wall. You see, they won’t jump if they can’t see where they are going to land. It makes sense. What if there was a hungry lion on the other side of the wall. Most of the people who have come to our churches over the years have never been to a new church before. They have to jump over our wall. They don’t fear a lion, they just don’t know what to expect.
The cross is a stumbling block; as is the exclusivity of Christianity. So perhaps it would be advisable to guard the information you provide. A first time visitor can be overwhelmed by the difference between whatever spiritual experience they had as a child (if any) and the shock treatment they get when they walk into a new, post modern American church. I was raised in a Catholic church in the north east. My first experience in a non-Catholic environment was real culture shock. I had never seen the inside of a Bible. The music was well done but foreign to my ear. Everything was a huge adjustment.
How you get folks over the wall into your church will vary. (We do that – www.tellstart.com ) What you say when they land is another matter. I happen to be a prelapsarian, double election, five point Calvinist. Do people who jump my wall need to know about my Reformed theology? Most of us know of and complain about ministries that have watered down the Gospel – giving too little information. It’s probably fair to say that some of us give out too much. Pet doctrines and traditions are often the lion on the blind side of the wall.
Without vision the people perish. Folks who take the risk to jump need to be given a vision of what’s ahead. Fear of the unknown is often worse than fear of what you can see. We tend to do a pretty good job of this when we first launch. However, as the months roll by new people will come in among us. They will have just jumped the wall and need some picture of what they have gotten themselves into. So, as part of your regular routine consider including a vision/picture of who you are/what you stand for/ what people can expect in the future. If will inform the new folks and refresh the vision of your regulars. Without vision the people perish – so does a new church.