Church Newcomers & Guests | What's a “Visitor” to Your Church Service
Summary: I was a “Sunday visitor,” a newcomer at a number of churches in 1969-71. As a newly committed Christian I was searching for a church home. The experiences varied from one church to the next and left me with mixed feelings. Let me share some thoughts, both from that experience and from the Scriptures, to help you offer a friendly and knowledgeable welcome to first-time guests in your church. Let’s address the question: What is a church visitor?
1. A visitor is someone God has drawn to the church.
Jeremiah 31:3 The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
• That man, that woman, that new family — these are people that God is drawing. People rarely just stumble into your church by accident. No, but rather, in some way relevant to their personal needs God is drawing them, leading them, prompting them to find a place to worship the Lord and to hear His word preached.
• So regard that Sunday visitor to your church services as a divine appointment. God has orchestrated circumstances to bring him or her into your midst for a purpose.
2. A visitor is someone Jesus loves and wants us to love.
Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”
• When you notice a person who is new to your church, let your heart be touched by Jesus’ love for that person.
• Stop … look at him/her … and say to yourself, “Jesus really, truly, deeply loves this person.” And let that motivate you to reach out to him with that love. A simple, warm greeting and a smile go a long way towards passing on Christ’s love to the guests in your church.
3. A visitor is someone Jesus died for.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us…
• That church newcomer is someone for whom Jesus specifically died.
• Remind yourself: Jesus went to the cross for that man, for that woman. That realization will help you to value highly each new person who enters your church service.
4. A visitor is someone who is seeking something.
Acts 17:22-23 [The apostle Paul in Greece said] …“People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
• The people of ancient Athens were, as Paul said, “religious” in their hearts. They were seeking truth, but could only get so far as “an unknown god” to worship.
• Likewise today, there will be visitors to your church with religious yearnings, with seeking hearts, not necessarily even knowing precisely what it is that they are seeking.
• Ours is increasingly a biblically and theologically illiterate generation. We must remember that visitors often come with questions. Be ready to receive the doubter, the questioner, without being judgmental. As they are exposed to worship of God and the preached word of God, we can trust that God will begin to reach into their hearts with the truth of the Gospel.
• Or perhaps the visitor is already a Christian who has heard about — but has not experienced — Spirit-filled church services. The presence and moving of the Holy Spirit in the service may be exactly the reason God drew them to your church.
5. A visitor is often someone who is desiring to “see Jesus.”
John 12:21 [Some Greeks] came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”
• That is the heart cry of many today — to “see Jesus”! They may have tried “church” in various places and been disappointed. They want to see Jesus.
• So we must have word-and-Spirit-filled churches. We must! The great apostle Paul told the Thessalonian believers, “Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:5, NASB). In the first century and in our 21st, people are moved to faith in the Lord by the preaching of the Gospel and the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
• In one kingdom parable (Luke 14:15-23) Jesus spoke of going out into the highways and hedges to “compel them to come in” (vs. 23). Come in to what? To a feast! (vss. 15-16). Our church’s visitors are entitled to partake of a spiritual feast. They should experience the powerful elements of a true New Testament church service — worship of God, the word of God, and the gifts of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 14:26). In these things they will “see Jesus.”
6. A visitor is often someone who is looking to make some friends.
Psalm 102:6-7 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
Psalm 68:6 God sets the lonely in families…
• These two psalms describe countless millions today — lonely, isolated, feeling like a bird alone on a rooftop.
• God has created us as social beings. People need fellowship. They need friends to care for and who care for them. Your friendliness — and possibly a new, growing friendship — may be precisely why that visitor came to your church.
7. A visitor is usually someone coming with unmet needs.
Luke 4:18 [Jesus said] “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…”
• The church visitor may be experiencing natural or spiritual poverty … may be imprisoned by a habit or addiction or circumstances … may have a physical healing need … may be oppressed or depressed.
• Determine to be “hands-on,” to be open, to be sensitive, and to be ready to offer the prayer of faith for the needs that may be expressed by the visitors to your church. It may be the first time anyone in a church has ever offered to pray for them right there, not just in a detached “I’ll keep you in prayer” sense.
8. A visitor is someone to greet, to reach out to, to extend yourself to.
Matthew 25:35, 40 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in …  The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
• Treat that newcomer, that stranger, as you would treat Jesus! — “you did [it] for me.”
• As a new Christian in Sacramento 45 years ago, I came into various church services as “a stranger.” Believe me, that can be quite intimidating for a first-time visitor.
• But if the established members make an effort to shake hands, to give a warm greeting, to ask their names, perhaps to engage in conversation and inquire about them, that goes a long way towards making the newcomer feel welcome.
Summary: “Who Is a Visitor?” The newcomer, the guest in your church, will be some or all of these things:
• Someone God has drawn to that service
• Someone Jesus loves and wants us to love
• Someone Jesus died for
• Someone who is seeking something
• Someone desiring to “see Jesus”
• Someone looking to make some new friends
• Someone coming to have unmet needs addressed
• Someone to greet, to reach out to, to extend yourself to