It is a good sign when I walk into a church on a Sunday morning and see several people who are NOT wearing suits, ties, and knee-length dresses. When I see this, I can pretty much surmise that I am in a church that is reaching out to people; and that is a great thing. On the same token, I become a bit concerned when I enter a church on a Sunday morning and EVERYONE is dressed perfectly. Obviously, the reason for my concern is that this is a sign that the church is content with its current status, and perhaps even views unchurched visitors as a burden rather than a blessing.
I was in a church on a Sunday morning in which everyone was in their Sunday best. The pastor preached for about an hour on several hot-button issues, all issues that the average unchurched person in America would not understand. In all of his ranting and raving on issues, I don't remember hearing a clear presentation of the Gospel. Had I brought a first-time visitor to church that Sunday morning, I would have been grossly disappointed.
I believe in the biblical teaching of modesty; but the most important thing an unsaved woman needs to hear when visiting an Independent Baptist church is NOT a fifteen minute temper tantrum against women wearing pants. I believe that the King James Version is the correct English translation; but going on a ten minute "face-ripping" session about the corruption of the other versions on a Sunday morning is NOT the first and most important thing a lost visitor needs to hear. The FIRST thing a lost visitor needs to sense and hear preached is the amazing love of Christ. Not only do they need to hear that message preached, but they need to sense the love of Christ in our spirit when we preach it. I believe the best way to help an unsaved person understand issues of personal separation is to first see them saved, and then to help them through personal discipleship. (Of course, it is absolutely necessary for a pastor to preach the whole counsel of God; and I believe that Sunday and Wednesday nights are wonderful opportunities for a pastor to deal with issues of personal separation, reasons for why we use the King James Version, etc. But when dealing with these issues, I believe we should remember that we not only need to speak the truth, but we need to speak the truth in love.)
With all that being said, I would like to share the lyrics of a wonderful song written by Bro. Cary Schmidt, one of the assistant pastors at Lancaster Baptist Church in Lancaster, California. The song is entitled, "This Must Be the Place." I believe this should be the anthem of every Independent, Fundamental Baptist church.
Souls on the street, addicted to sin
Selling themselves to survive
Not understanding the love they could find
In a place where God's love is alive.
They doubt that they could meet the standards necessary,
And fear that they'd find judgment
Rather than a sanctuary.
The neighbor next door keeps the house looking good,
But the home is collapsing within.
Pressures of life pull a family apart,
And temptation's destruction begins.
They doubt the church could have the answers necessary
And fear they'd find rejection rather than a sanctuary.
This must be a place where a broken heart can mend
This must be a place where the outcast finds a friend.
For we cannot lift the fallen if our hand still holds a stone,
And their sin that seems so great to us is no greater than our own.
There must be a point where shame meets grace,
And the church must be the place.