Constraining Church Assumptions, Number 4

Mark Tidsworth, Pinnacle President

Many people in our community are looking for a church like ours

This assumption was formed a long time ago, when Christianity and American culture were blended (to some extent). At one time it was more popular to participate in church, culturally reinforced in so many ways. Remarkably, there are still disciples and churches who believe this is still the case. They work to increase the quality of their worship services, call the best and brightest pastors and church staffs, and roll out wonderful programs…and then experience even greater frustration, wondering why people aren’t beating down the doors to get in! Aren’t people looking for a great church like ours?

Well, no. And the problem is not the church; rather it’s this assumption (see bold print above). Fewer and fewer people are looking for a church since they are not raised, taught, trained, or otherwise conditioned to do so. They may not know anyone who attends a church or who ever talks about it if they do. All they know is what they see in the news, making them suspicious of Christians, believing they are a voting block who wants to take over government.

Clinging to this assumption creates passive Christians, sitting and waiting for the general public to come to our doors. Jesus and the early disciples wouldn’t recognize this kind of church. “Go you therefore into all the world…” They were a sent people, rather than a sitting people.

So, where to from here?

First let’s change this assumption right now. How about this one, “People are hungry for significance, meaning, and spiritual engagement, so our church is working to help open doors to God in our community.” People must first “taste and see” before they have any idea that a church is a group with whom they may want to engage. Psalm 34:8 gives good guidance here, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”

Second, it’s time for us to embrace our calling to be ambassadors for Christ. This is the member to disciple identity shift (See Shift: Three Big Moves For The 21st Century Church). Who we are during the week has far more influence on church participation than our church’s ability to things just right. Pastors, church staff, and lay leaders spend boatloads of time trying to organize, refine, and position the church for receiving newcomers. Yet, deep in their hearts, they know its really about how good the gospel is in the lives of we disciples. Though websites and good publicity may help (slightly), 86% of first time visitors to worship are there because someone from that church invited them! Let that reality sink in for a moment.

Evidently, the bottom line is our engagement in the story of God, so to speak. When we are alive in the adventure of Jesus, we can’t help but engage others with this good and robust way of life. If we want to think in terms of “church marketing,” there’s no better publicity than enlivened disciples who are caught up in the way of Jesus. So let’s lay aside the leftover assumptions from the Modern Era church and embrace our time and place in history….right now!

Helen Renew