Stop Preaching to “Non-Christians”


I hate the word “non-Christian”.

Christians use it all the time to describe people who are not Christians.  For example, we might say something like, “I invited my non-Christian neighbor to church” or “My son is dating a non-Christian”.  And I guess that I am OK with using the word in that way.  It’s not a very elegant term, but it communicates an idea effectively enough.

But I hate it when preachers use the word in the course of their sermons.  Many well meaning preachers at some point in their message will turn to address people who are not Christians and say something like, “If you here this morning and you are a non-Christian…” and then present them with some aspect of the gospel message.
This is unfortunate for two reasons:
  1. It’s not a very kind or winsome way to identify someone who is presumably a guest in your service.  Who wants to be identified as a “non-_____”?  Unconverted people don’t usually think of themselves in these terms.
  2. More importantly, it allows the hearer to define the terms.  You are asking someone who is not converted to identify themselves as such without giving them the tools to make that determination.  Many “non-Christians” don’t know that they are “non-Christians”.  If you asked them, they’d say they were Christians because they don’t know what it means to be a Christian.  They aren’t Jews or Muslims, perhaps they are culturally Christian.  And so when you call on the “non-Christian” to hear the gospel, they don’t know you’re talking to them.

I think it’s much better to define what it means to be a Christian for your hearers.  Address “non-Christians” directly in your sermon, absolutely.  But do so in a way that helps people identify whether or not they fit in that category.  Use words that connect the hearer into the sermon you’ve been preaching:

  1. If you are here and you have not repented of your sins in the way we’ve been talking about this morning…
  2. If you are not a follower of Christ like Paul is talking about here…
  3. If you haven’t put your trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins…

You can think of other natural ways to help your hearer define what it means to be a Christian by the way you address them.  Just don’t call them a “non-Christian.”

Mike McKinley

Mike is an author and the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church in Sterling, Virginia.

9Marks articles are made possible by readers like you. Donate Today.