A Visitor-Friendly Church

“First impressions last.” Whether in job-hunting or in looking for a lifetime partner, in many things, the statement holds true. So it does with church. Many first-time church visitors come and go, not necessarily because of faulty preaching or bad air-conditioning but because of an unwelcoming atmosphere.

They will try another church the next Sunday.

We don’t want our visitors to leave. We want to make them feel warm and welcome. 

I. Foundational Principles

Here are four foundational principles to consider with respect to inviting and welcoming visitors to our churches:

1. Worship (Ps 150:6)-We want the whole earth to be praising the Lord. “O for a thousand tongues to sing our dear Redeemer’s praise!” “We long to see Thy churches full.” The more people that worship, the more we rejoice. We want God’s name to be lifted up before a multitude. Don’t be satisfied with few; invite many!

2. Evangelism (Mt 28:19)-Christ’s commission to the church is to make disciples of all the nations. Thus, we invite visitors and preach the gospel to them. We do Bible studies with them. We pray for their salvation. We encourage ourselves with the reality that God’s word will not return unto Him void (Is 55:11).

3. Sovereignty of God (Ps 115:3)-There are disappointments and there are surprises. There are highs and lows of church attendance. We do our duty and leave the results to God. This keeps us from being discouraged when expectations fail; it also keeps us from pride when expectations are more than met.

4. Truth (2 Tim 4:1-4)-Our settled convictions must not be compromised for the sake of accommodating visitors. This has happened to many a church. We want to be visitor-friendly churches but not at the expense of manipulating truth for the sake of greater attendance.

II. Specific Directives

Here are fifteen specific directives to make our churches visitor-friendly:

1. Do not locate your church in a place that is highly inaccessible. Do not give people a hard time locating and accessing your church. It can give the impression that you don’t want visitors. The best place to be may not be one that is pleasant or practical however remote. It is to be where the people are and not where the people are not. We must pursue sinners and not let sinners pursue us.

People hate to be inconvenienced. Having a place situated in some remote, difficult-to-reach corner is a negative for high attendance. 

2. Have a visible, no-frills, easy to read, and updated church sign. A church with no sign is a sign of no church. “Visible” means it can be read by passers-by or by motorists. “No-frills” means no comical pick-up lines, like “Do you know what hell is? Come hear our preacher.” Or, “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.” Or, “Now is the time to visit. Our pastor is on vacation.” They may be humorous punch lines that attract attention but they sure do reflect what kind of preaching to expect inside.

The sign must be readable; don’t use fancy, complicated lettering which cannot be deciphered from two feet. Update your information-don’t display numbers that are non-existent or web addresses that haven’t been updated in 20 years. 

3. Establish a good ushering system (1 Cor 14:40). Although our churches may be small and we cannot afford to have official ushers, if we have sufficient manpower, ushers must be installed at the entrance to welcome visitors. They are the official greeters.

Having welcomers puts visitors at ease. Therefore, the ushers must not be masungit or suplado but winsome, people-friendly. They must be decently dressed. At one time, we even required our ushers to wear name tags.

At MCBC, they are the ones who greet visitors as they arrive, give them a hymnal or a Bible and point them to where they ought to be seated. They also give visitors’ slips for first-timers to fill up.

The ushers also ensure that order in worship is maintained. We do not want the solemnity of God’s worship to be disrupted by unruly visitors, undisciplined children and tardy attenders looking for a place to sit.

4. Make your church premises visitor-friendly. Take into account that senior citizens and nursing mothers attend church. It is hard labor for people with creaky joints to go up even two flights of stairs. The oldies might prefer to exercise on weekdays rather than be sweaty or gasping for breath during worship. 

Allocate a place where nursing mothers would not be embarrassed caring for their babies.

Make your auditorium visible (at least partly visible) from the outside so that visitors would know what’s going on inside and no impression is made that the church is a secret society and off-limits to non-members.

Provide nearby parking. Compared to twenty years ago, a lot of people today own vehicles and bring them to church. We don’t want them to park a kilometer away and walk the rest of the way to church–especially under a hot sun or in pouring rain.

Have clean bathrooms available, and situate them well.

Not the least is to ensure enough seating capacity. How can visitors be encouraged to stay when looking for a place to sit is like looking for a needle in a haystack? Expand or look for a bigger place when a high percentage of seating capacity has been reached. 

5. Engage visitors with a spirit of hospitality (Heb 13:2).

Welcome them publicly in worship–not necessarily with a welcome song that may embarrass them. You need not even mention their names or ask them to stand. A simple recognition of their presence by the worship leader will do.

Engage them in conversation after. Make them feel welcome. Hospitality is not just the ushers’ or the pastors’ duty; it is the duty of all of the members.

Encourage them to return.

Establish friendships with them; secure their trust-that you are not after anything except their soul’s good. Ask them if they want to have Bible studies but do not be too aggressive.

Hand them tracts and church brochures. Let them fill up first-time visitors slips. 

Tell your members to sit beside them to help them find the verses in the Bibles that the preacher refers to.

At MCBC, we don’t even request them to give to the offering, unless they voluntarily do so.

6. Encourage members with gifts of evangelism to be at the front lines (1 Pet 4:10-11). We know who our people are. We know their strengths and weaknesses. There are those who find it easy opening up to strangers and letting strangers open up to them. There are those who have an ability to disarm people’s resistance to teaching and make them listen. There are good conversationalists. They must be encouraged to be at the front line of dealing with visitors.

7. Engage in follow-up and visitationKeep a data-base of visitors. You can send follow-up letters appreciating their coming and asking them if they want a visit or a Bible study. At MCBC, we meet the congregation in order to organize visitation and follow-up. We encourage church members to volunteer.

8. Exercise caution when receiving visitor applicants for membership. Though we must not be overly stringent in our terms of accepting members, we must know our visitor applicants well enough so that they would not disrupt the unity of our churches whether doctrinally or practically. They must have been in the church long enough for them to know that we have settled convictions and principles of life and conduct that we follow.

9. Pray to avoid dangers and difficulties. We cannot screen people before they enter our church doors. We don’t have airport x-ray machines. We don’t search people for weapons or judge people by appearances. But we can pray that the Lord would deliver us from opportunists, thieves, and any other bad elements who would seek to harm God’s people and disrupt His worship.  

10. Coordinate with sister churches. In the spirit of fellowship, we ought to communicate with sister churches when a known member of a sister church regularly attends our services or even applies for church membership. This would avoid tension between churches. As a matter of procedure, it might be good for us to seek a recommendation letter from the pastor of the church that the person is leaving.

11. Organize a new members classWe have just organized a new members class for the purpose of orienting interested attenders as to what our church believes in and how things are done in our congregation. As suggested, this class could further be broken down into specific groups, like: long-time attenders, children of members, previous members of non-Reformed churches.  

12. Avoid profiling (Jas 2:1ff). Do not profile people and lump them into categories like rich or poor, educated or non-educated, Tagalog or Bisaya. The gospel is for all. Do not rejoice that a rich or a famous person has attended your church and be embarrassed that a person in rags found his way to your gathering. 

13. Pray for their salvation (Rom 11:1). Like Paul, we must have a burden for the souls of all of our unconverted visitors. Let it be a permanent portion of your prayer meetings to pray for the salvation of the unsaved.

14. Advertise your church on line. We live in a day of social media. Let’s make good use of the internet by advertising our church on line. 

15. Last but not the least, let the love of the brethren flourish. Many times have I heard not how well the word was preached but how well the people loved each other. In a world of hate and conflict, an atmosphere of love speaks volumes. Known conflicts among members are a turn-off. The great attraction of our churches should not be our buildings and air-conditioning but the truth faithfully preached and a people that love each other as Christ has loved them. Who else can be the best welcomers?

Is your church a visitor-friendly church?


Pas Joey oversees Q and A.


Bro Tony has something to share.

Note: The preceding was a message I preached at the REBAP Pastors Fraternal held at the Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, JP Rizal St, Makati on Sept 18, 2015. It is reproduced by request.

Gospel Frontliners

Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

Our graduation-commissioning service last Saturday was an answer to prayer, a multiple answer to prayer. Five able men were commissioned to be sent to Jesus’ harvest-field. All of them are front-line pioneers with respect to the planting of Reformed Baptist churches in their areas.

Alvin is laboring in Valencia City, Bukidnon, the largest city in Central Mindanao. Boy, Jonard and Mario will work the big cities of Davao, Tagum and Gensan, respectively. We have another supported missionary, commissioned earlier, planting a church in Digos City, Davao del Sur. We thus have the big cities of Central and Southern Mindanao covered.

Meanwhile, George is engaging in church planting in the Northern Caloocan area of Bagumbong.

I pray that we would not just make a small dent in terms of gospel endeavor in these highly populated areas. But that these men would be used of God in a mighty way to make a large impact upon their communities.

I pray that sinners would be saved, churches would be planted, more missionaries sent and these cities turned upside down. May we all carry the passion of William Carey in the spread of the gospel: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”

May God keep these gospel-wielding soldiers in the spiritual battlefield of winning men’s hearts and may He be pleased to bless their labors mightily!


New RBIPT Graduate Mario (2nd from left) at Eval’s (Center) Bday Celeb after Preaching Clinic (9-15-15)


Welcome Dinner for Pas Paul of Cebu SGBC and our Missionaries from Mindanao


Pas Paul Preaches on Mt 28:18-20 at the Graduation-Commissioning Service


Pastors Pose with New RBIPT Graduate, Mario Betangcol (center)


This Time with the Five Newly-Commissioned Missionaries: Mario, Boy, Jonard, George and Alvin (from L to R)


Mario’s Family: Our (Soon-to-be) Man in Gensan


George’s Family: Our Man in Caloocan


“Let me remove that durian stain from your barong.”


All the Way from Caloocan: the Bagumbong Flock


Dinner Fellowship Afterwards in Tagaytay


Kids Enjoy the Cool Breeze


Waiting for Bulalo, Crispy Pata, Sisig and Tawilis


Hungry Tummies: “Where’s the food?”


“I’m bored! What are these guys up to?”


“I’ll foot the bill tonight.”


Pas. Alex leads the AM Service the next day.


Pas. Paul preaches from Ps 8.


We had a good crowd.


BS Attenders from Cooper Street.


Bro Boy takes the PM service.


Finally, welcome back Monina (L), former member, who now lives in Dubai.

Tata Dick

Tata Dick and Nana Lita were regular morning attenders of our church. They lived just about three blocks away from our church premises. Dick was the vice-president of their homeowners’ association and Lita was an energetic businesswoman.

One Sunday, instead of attending the morning worship they were present in the evening, particularly the Lord’s Supper service. Nana Lita asked permission from me to take the emblems. But not being church members I told them not to partake of the bread and the cup. I explained to them why but I don’t think they understood.

That would signal the end of their attendance at MCBC–at least for a while.

For about two months, their absence would be noticed since they sat up front and Dick especially had an imposing figure. I felt that I had to go and visit. So I mobilized a team to follow up and ask how the couple were doing. By this time, I had thought that they had returned to their former church which was located in a nearby subdivision.

When we came to their home, they received us well and Nana Lita particularly told me she was offended when I turned down her request to take the Lord’s Supper. I explained to her again in a nice and gentle way why I turned them down. At the time they were attending I was not sure of their spiritual state. So my decision was for their good.

During the course of our conversation, I learned that they stopped attending any church altogether; they preferred MCBC. So I suggested a Bible study with them jointly with a member’s family who lived in the same neighborhood. It turned out that the member’s family would be unavailable and this was to be a Bible study that had them as its sole focus.

Our first session began Nov 27, 2013. It would become regular every Tuesday night. Had it not been for the insistence of the couple to continue the Bible study because they wanted to learn more, I would have stopped after a year. But they were eager so I pressed on. The ground covered was purely evangelistic, week-in week-out.

Summer this year, I told my friends it was time to stop and move on to new opportunities. Until that time we were not sure about the spiritual condition of Dick and were sure where the wife stood. Dick never rebelled against God’s word; he was oftentimes very quiet, it was hard to tell what was inside.

Two months ago, Dick was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. I changed my mind about stopping. Time was running out on this person. The disease was serious. I had to press on. It had come to the point when I had to ask direct and pointed questions about where he stood with respect to Christ.

There were wrong answers and right answers. I was not satisfied. In the realm of salvation, it had to be 100% or nothing. It had to be Jesus alone.

I pressed the issue again early morning Thursday, Sept 10. Dick was in the hospital, semi-comatose, groggy from mega-doses of morphine. The cancer was taking its toll. To his ear, I spoke and told him to forget everything that he had done good, to ask forgiveness for everything that he had done bad and to remember Jesus and His work on the cross alone as his hope of eternal life. 

In the evening, after prayer meeting, I asked my Bible study group to go with me to the hospital to give their parting messages to Tata Dick. The body ceased to move. The eyes could not see, the lips could not talk. The only response were grunts.

At 2:30 am early Friday, I got a call from Nana Lita that Dick had left. I was told that writhing in pain, days before he died, Nana Lita heard a cry from him asking the Lord for forgiveness of his sins. 

Our Bible study in their home was no accident. The Lord brought us there to prepare this man for the final call. I pray he passed. The Lord’s word does not return to Him void.

Fellowshipping with Dick and Lita at our Couples Fellowship (Feb 2015)

Fellowshipping with Dick (yellow shirt) and Lita at our Couples Fellowship (Feb 2015)

Picture Talk

If a picture paints a thousand words, I’ll let my pictures do the talking. Here’s the view from the pulpit these past four weeks:


Preached Ps 23 at Mommy Estabillo Funeral (9-5-15). General Estabillo beside me and the other siblings. Jun Estabillo who presently lives in Canada and was not around during the wake was a long-time MCBC member.


Unscheduled Funeral Service for the Onas Family (9-5-15) just beside the Estabillo wake. Preached on Jn 3:16. Onas is the deceased father of Gina’s sister- in-law, Neng, who is an MCBC regular attender.


Bro Mario, soon-to-be RBIPT graduate, preaches a moving sermon on Mt 25 “Blessedness or Anguish?” (PM Service 8-30-15)


One mark of seniors because of their experience is wisdom. Preached on “Older and Wiser” at Senior Moments (8-29-15).


The Royal True-Orange Man graces Senior Moments (8-29-15)


Many of our youth had classes that Friday (8-28-15). Attendance dropped from the previous 40 to 14. Pas. Mike preached the same topic I preached, “Biblical Wisdom.”


Pas. Jorge preaches on “Dealing with Lust” at the Pastors’ Fraternal at Cubao Reformed Baptist Church (8-14-15).


Pastors enjoy fellowship during the fraternal lunch (8-14-15).


Most of these are Metro Manila Reformed Baptist Pastors. Taken at Fraternal (8-14-15).


Preached on “Intimacy in Marriage” at the Annual SGBC Couples Fellowship, San Pedro, Laguna (8-8-15).


Pas. Jorge leads the closing hymn “Kahit Maputi na ang Buhok Ko” at the SGBC Couples Fellowship (8-8-15).


My friends James and Janet. Today they are reconciled. SGBC Couples Fellowship (8-8-15).

Drawing Together or Drifting Apart?

This was the subject of our couples fellowship held last Friday July 31. I jotted down 15 points in a message that lasted for about 35 minutes. There were 2 rationales, 4 reasons, 3 excuses, 4 exhortations and 2 realities to consider. This was according to how I heard and not according to what was written in the outline of the preacher. I welcome any correction.

What is the rationale for laboring to draw closer and making our marriages grow? One, our spouses are not perfect. In fact, they are far from perfect. Like ourselves, they are sinners. And even if they have been redeemed, enough sin remains to make marriage less than happy. Two, marriage was meant to last. It is not like gum that you chew for a while and stick underneath a chair once it loses its flavor. It is like rollerskating uphill; it takes effort to move upwards; once you stop, you start sliding downwards.

What factors make laboring to draw closer a necessity? One, the multiplicity of distractions. There is just so much business around so as to neglect the most important earthly relationship that we have. Two, the possibility of division. It is a reality that couples drift apart, at times, to the point of no return. One stark evidence of this is the reality of divorce and separation even among Christian couples. Three, there is the reality of the intrinsic differences of men and women. Unity in marriage does not come automatically. These gender differences must be taken into account. Four, there is the inevitability of change. We age; the children grow; situations change. We cannot presume that what applied last year applies today. There needs to be constant evaluation.

What are some excuses people make or can make for not laboring? One, “we have been together for so long that we need to work less than we did before.” Or, “we have been together for so short a time that it’s like we’re still in our honeymoon period.” Two, “why the need to labor when my spouse isn’t cooperating? He or she is not doing what he or she is supposed to do.” Three, “we are far too distant that the gap is impossible to bridge; it’s a hopeless situation.” In reality, these excuses don’t hold water. No couple is exempt from laboring to make their marriages better.

Four exhortations were given: one, never coast! Coasting equals drifting. Don’t be content at being “still married.” Rather, enjoyment of each other ought to grow as the years pass. Two, live with each other, especially the husband to the wife, according to knowledge. Don’t assume you know everything about your spouse. There is no auto-update in married life. Three, consciously delight in your spouse. There is more to the Song of Solomon than just Christ and His church; there is a pattern of delighting in one’s partner that each of us could imitate. Coupled with this is maintaining an awareness of the likes and dislikes of your partner. Four, engage in frequent transparent communication, especially in a context of promoting spiritual growth in each other. Talk about the messages that you hear; engage in joint devotions; encourage each other to read the word.

The devotion ended with two foundational realities: one, we must always remember that marriage is a reflection of the gospel, of the relationship of Christ and His church. We either glorify Christ or not. We either display His relationship to His church in a superior or in a mediocre way. Two, we need to be filled with the Spirit. Who is sufficient? May the Spirit be our help in laboring to draw closer through the years instead of drifting apart.

I hope I reproduced the message well. Here are pictures of 14 cute, smiling couples present during the fellowship (I missed one couple who came late) among other pictures taken.














Complete with Bodyguards

Complete with Bodyguards

Suspicious, Fixated, Joyful

Sisters Suspicious, Frustrated, and Overjoyed

Sweet Seniors

Sweet Seniors

Start of Session

Start of Session





Ethics Pics


Welcoming the Students Monday Afternoon July 20; Some are Manila first-timers


G2+C2+P4=Biblical Ethics; Yes, that’s what we were taught!


How many shiny foreheads can you count?


This is much better lighting; after prayer meeting July 23


Posing as Tourists at Taal Vista Lodge


Arm and His Family


Nice Taal Volcano Background


Band of Brothers from Bohol


Eagerly Anticipating Bulalo Dinner


Where’s the Bulalo?


Let’s Pray First!


Oh, there it is!


Absolutely Green!


Gina Cooks on Day 3 and 4


Mad Scramble for Ala Mode


The roof’s falling!


The students are friendly, don’t be afraid..


RBIPT Participated in the Metro Manila Earthquake Drill, 10:30am, July 30


Drop and Cover for 45 seconds..


D-Day; Final Exams


Searching for the Answer..


Teacher’s Favorite: Dried Mango Chips


Thumbs Up!


Leave some for me..


We Deeply Appreciate the Labors of Annie, Mary and Marilyn (not here)


First Priority to Get a Free Book


Hmm, which book is the thickest?


Fall in line, please!


More interested in the books than in the lecture!  (joke!)

Thanks be to God for a fruitful two weeks of learning and being refreshed from God’s word. I never planned to take the course; I merely wanted to sit in for a few days but I was drawn in; after two days of listening, I decided to finish the course and take all of the tests. I greatly appreciate Pas. Bart’s coming over to teach us rich Biblical material on the subject of Christian ethics. May what we learned not just make us know more but may it impact the lives of all of us who attended.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Anxiety Sunday

I am happy to see a church friend come among us at this time. Pastor Bart arrived late Thursday night from a 17-hour flight from the US East Coast via Hong Kong to Manila.

Pastor Bart has been here a couple of times to teach in RBIPT but his longest stay was his first. This was in 1992 when I, being only a pastor of 2 years, worked with him in the leadership of MCBC when my co-elder left for a 7-month furlough. I think he was still in seminary at that time and only three years later would become one of the pastors of the Trinity Church in Montville, New Jersey, well-known for pastor Albert N. Martin (retired) whose cassette tapes became the catalyst for Philippine church reformation in the eighties.

Pas Bart is here for another RBIPT module on Christian Ethics, a study of worldviews and the relevance of the Law in our day. We are expecting about 25 men, mostly from the Visayas and Mindanao. At least 10 of these are first-timers whom we got to know at the recent pastors’ conferences in Valencia and Iligan cities.

Please pray with us that this two-week course would prove profitable to all who attend.

Yesterday, showing no signs of jet lag, Pas Bart preached to us the whole day. After giving a testimony of his conversion experience in the Sunday School, he moved to the topic of anxiety in the morning. This was to be our meditation for the whole day.

The text in the morning was Phil 4:4-9. Every old-timer knows this text. But we need to be reminded time and again not to be anxious. Anxiety is a common malady which hits the mature as well as the young.

After looking at the nature of anxiety, that it was a sinful response to providence, we were led to its treatment. And it consisted of a three-fold regimen. First, was to introduce our problems to God (v6) without neglecting thanksgiving. Second, was to get on a different treadmill, to re-orient our minds and let them dwell on things worthy of thinking about (v8). And thirdly, to implement the exercise plan we have been given, that is to walk in obedience and to cultivate a clean conscience so that the God of peace may walk with us (v9).

The subject was continued in the afternoon. Focus shifted to the Old Testament scriptures, particularly Isaiah. This was by way of expanding the second exhortation above to engage in good meditation. We dwelt mainly on Is 40-45 which were chapters of comfort for the people of God.

The launching point were the three comforting voices of Isaiah 40. The first voice (40:9) called us to meditate on the character of God, to behold His power and immensity, His control over all things. The second voice (40:6) called us to meditate on the abiding word of God whose promises are true and faithful. The third voice (40:3) pointed us to the redemption of God in the person of Jesus Christ, the real solution to the greatest anxiety every sinner ought to have, the judgment of God.

The medical consultation was worth it. We have been seen by the great physician. We have been diagnosed with anxiety. He has given the treatment and told what to do. May He give the grace to apply.


Two Barts


Preaching in the AM Service


Fruit of Funeral Service and Visitation: Johnny’s Brother Attends


Pastor Bart wore the right outfit for the occasion.


With Old Friends


Chatting With Pastor Alex’s Darlings


I didn’t know we had another red-haired member.


PM Service