How should preachers treat people who are not in the assembly?

How should preachers treat people who are not in the assembly?

Since the New Testament doesn’t teach a division between clergy and laity, the same principles written for all Christians apply to preachers. All are to be kind to each other (Ephesians 4:32) and serve others in love (Galatians 5:13) and lowliness (Ephesians 4:2). Therefore, preachers, along with all believers, should attempt to avoid anything that a visitor could interpret as unkind or condescending. Since Christians are to "esteem other better than themselves," every visitor to the assembly should receive respect and personal attention. At a minimum, that means every believer should attempt to welcome the visitor (without being overwhelming) and to address the visitor by name. James warns against special treatment for wealthy visitors (James 2:1-4). If a personable, prominent, popular politician visited, how many handshakes and requests for photographs would he receive? How often would believers tell others of that visit? Should another visitor with a different status, appearance, creed, personality, race, or lifestyle receive a lesser welcome?

Paul makes it clear that the Corinthians’ behavior in their gatherings should have a positive impact on both the unlearned and unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:23-25). The unlearned are not in the assembly and they are not unbelievers. Therefore, these principles apply to believing and unbelieving visitors. If they witnessed speaking in tongues, they would have a negative impression of the believers, concluding they are mad - deluded. If they heard men prophesying, they would recognize God’s presence among His people. The outcome desired for these visitors was for them to become worshipers, aware of God’s presence in the assembly. Every interaction with visitors should create a positive impression and contribute to this desired outcome.

In speaking publicly, preachers are responsible to model this kindness, lowliness, respect, and purpose (1 Timothy 4:11-13). This Biblical standard tests the matter and manner of all preaching. Paul implies (1 Corinthians 14:15-33) that the preachers’ words and actions form the visitors’ impression of the God this congregation worships.

D. Oliver