Tag Archives: consumer

The More Important Election Few Are Talking About

Sep 21, 16
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one comments

Sign at Boston Immigration rally

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.’” (Matthew 20:25-26)

Our high officials occupying and seeking the White House are Gentiles – non-believers.  As Christians, our job is not to imitate them.  Nor should we worry about what they’ve done – or will do.  We can only control what we do.  We are called to action.  Our energy should be directed more toward who ends up in God’s House than in the White House.  Jesus asks us to follow His example – that of a humble servant.  “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

How can you become that kind of servant?  How can you show that your home is not on Earth but in Heaven?  How can you cast a vote that will last far longer than the next 4 years?

By election day, NOVEMBER 8th

  • Perform a simple act of service for someone you know or a perfect stranger in the name of Jesus.
  • Share your story on your Facebook or Twitter page with the hashtag #CastAnEternalVote or #VoteForEternity2016.
  • Directly challenge 3 of your friends on Facebook or Twitter to “pay it forward”.

YOU are the Church

The Church is the living, breathing body of Christ.  The congregation comprises that body.  Each of us is an important body part.

Church is not a “what” – a place.  It’s a “who” – yes, YOU.  The Church’s power is in the vast number and diverse giftings in the body – fueled by the Holy Spirit.  For centuries, those countless parts of Christ’s body recognized their individual roles in expanding the Kingdom – and created an unstoppable, irresistible movement.

So why isn’t Christianity growing in America today?  The explanation we’ve put forward in this blog series is that most members and attenders no longer see…

  • …themselves as the Church personified.
  • …how they weaken the overall body if they don’t carry out their intended functions.
  • …the need to carefully evaluate their giftings and apply them to ministry outside of their church.
  • …their position in their church as important as the pastor’s.
  • …the community as their “customer”, as Jesus did.
  • …a sense of urgency around their role in bringing the lost to Christ.
  • …the Great Commission as an obligation rather than an option.

Because the individual parts aren’t fulfilling their respective roles in the body, the Church today isn’t healthy.  Your toe may be a small fraction of your total mass, but when it breaks your whole body suffers.  In the case of the Church, few parts are functioning as well as they should at their most urgent responsibility between Sundays – the Great Commission.

Imagine if the early Church hadn’t aggressively “gone out” and made disciples?  What if Christ-followers had relied primarily on pastors to evangelize and educate new believers?  Yet that’s where most of us stop today – at extending invitations to church.  What if the early churchgoers had stayed among themselves – rarely venturing out into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to pursue non-believers?  What if they hadn’t followed Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love and compassion before telling them who He is?  The fact that believers took the Great Commission so seriously was a major reason behind the Church’s explosive growth during its first 1900 years.

How few would be in Heaven if Christians throughout history had seen Church as a place, not as themselves?  Yet my fear is that’s how most churchgoers view Church today.

All Hands on Deck

Jesus, His disciples, and churches for centuries treated the community as its target audience – its “customer”.   For us, the collective Church, to function effectively all parts must work together to pursue our intended “customer”.

In management consulting, we saw countless examples of departments not working in a company’s best interests:

  • Sales – not adequately motivated to convert new customers
  • Marketing – targeting the wrong (i.e. least profitable) customers
  • Operations – processes designed around the needs of internal departments and not of customers
  • R&D – product innovation not keeping up with evolving customer needs
  • Finance – not investing adequately in the optimal customers or products

No company can succeed unless all the departments are adequately staffed and aligned around the interests of its best customers.  What the Bible says about churches is no different.  An entire church – pastors, staff, members, elders, deacons, facilities, etc. – should work together seamlessly to prepare and equip everyone to reach “customers” – those outside its 4 walls.  In this analogy, members are essentially employees, not “customers”.  They are “insiders”, not “outsiders”.

So, how should each part of the body be utilized in this “members ARE the Church, NOT the customer” framework?

  • Members/Regular Attenders – Like Sales, evangelize and serve their true target “customers”, not simply invite them to Sunday morning services.
  • Deacons/Elders – Like Marketing, lead everyone in the church into a deeper relationship with Christ so they can have a greater impact in their spheres of influence.
  • Staff/Administration – Like Operations, yet geared toward equipping and sending disciples, not on keeping the “machine” running.
  • Pastors – Like R&D, cast vision for how to leverage the body to reach more people for Christ.
  • Finance/Facilities – Allocate limited resources to the uses that maximize return on investment – which in Kingdom terms is the # of people who come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

What Body Parts have Atrophied?

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (TLB); “All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.  Here is a list of some of the parts He has placed in His Church, which is His body:

  • Apostles,
  • Prophets—those who preach God’s Word,
  • Teachers,
  • Those who do miracles,
  • Those who have the gift of healing,
  • Those who can help others,
  • Those who can get others to work together,
  • Those who speak in languages they have never learned.”

As for those first three, it’s clear that pastors occupy the lead role within a church.  However, the remaining parts of the body listed could be any one of us – while inside or outside the building.  We are the hands and feet of Christ, yet too few of us are stretching and working out our muscles – so they’ve atrophied.  Unless we exercise the body part we represent, both in how we serve others within our church and out in the community, the overall body becomes weaker.  Unless pastors are willing to risk rocking the boat by challenging members to be stronger body parts, churches will continue to atrophy in size, impact and influence.

What body parts are underutilized today?  Are there any we are overusing?  Have we invented some parts that God did not even intend for churches to have?

How Can You Rebuild Those Muscles?

Come to the stark realization that you are the embodiment of Church!  Understand just how critical of a role you play once you leave the church building.  To be most effective as the Church personified, follow Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love to people and then telling them who He is.

We are asking 1 million Christians across the nation to Cast An Eternal Vote (#CastAnEternalVote) before Election Day, November 8th.  Please share your stories with us!  And don’t forget to challenge 3 Christ-followers you know to “pay it forward” and Vote For Eternity 20:16 (#VoteforEternity2016)!

Profile of a Church “Shopper”

Aug 31, 16
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Famous shopping area in Dublin, Ireland. Grafton Street showing shoppers, shops and church.

Because most churchgoers don’t see themselves AS the church, they’re susceptible to becoming consumers OF the church:

  • “I’m looking for a new church home”
  • “My kids don’t like it there”
  • “I’m not being fed”
  • “The music is too loud”
  • “We don’t feel like we belong”

Americans “shop” because we want more – or something different.  We search for what will make us happy.  We evaluate the available options and choose the one that provides the greatest value.  For many of us today, that also applies when it comes to church.

What do shoppers do at a store?  They find what they want (or not) and then leave.  There are two ways in which “shoppers” leave a church:

…Walk out the door after weekend services

  • and don’t see themselves as the church personified once they’re outside the “4 walls”

…Decide to stop going to a particular church

  • and start looking for another one

Christians shouldn’t stop being the church on the way home.  They may disperse, but that should only serve to permeate the culture with the love of Christ.  Nor should Christians leave a church family because they’re unhappy with it – any more than we can leave the family we’re born into.  God chooses both families for us – and for good reasons.

Chicken or the egg…

Why do so many church goers look for something better?

…Did our advertising-driven culture turn us into consumers of churches as well?

  • and force churches to adapt, catering to rather than challenging members

…Did churches turn us into church consumers?

  • using the latest church growth strategies to drive up attendance

In other words, did churchgoers become finicky on their own or did churches make them that way?  For example, are most church ads today aimed at enticing non-Christians to try out (any) church or convincing Christians to switch over to a new church?  Advertising a “casual environment” or “fun for kids” isn’t going to attract someone who isn’t interested in church.  People can find more relaxing places to go and more fun things for the kids to do elsewhere.  Those kinds of ads would only pull in those who aren’t happy with those aspects of their current churches.

If we’re not careful, church membership can look a little like a country club or health club.  Consumers are accustomed to working within a membership framework.  They pay dues are entitled to certain benefits.  Yet that sort of thinking causes folks to join another “club” when their current church doesn’t meet their expectations.  Too many consumers within churches have turned many from life-saving stations into social clubs with a life-saving motif.  As church has become too comfortable, members have reverted from search-and-rescue squads to partakers of church services.  Intensive life-saving courses have been replaced by small groups.  Churches are no longer first responders when local families are in need, instead resorting to occasional outreach events.   Most church members have lost their sense of sense of urgency for the plight of unbelievers.  They are less cognizant of the dire peril facing those who don’t know Jesus.  Nor do pastors consider obedience to the Great Commission mandate a prerequisite for church membership.

The other way to reach the lost…

Today, instead of “go and make disciples”, we build first-rate facilities, design engaging worship services, post attractive signage and place friendly greeters at the door.  Build it and they will come.  Will they?  Maybe, but when they get there what will they find?  Friends – very likely.  Jesus – hopefully.  The kind of radical life change expected of disciples of Jesus Christ – probably not.  Churches today are producing far too many Pensive, Passive, and Private Christians.

Quick story:  A 3,000 member church hired consultants from one of the country’s largest megachurches to rejuvenate its aging membership.  The prescription:

  • shut down local missions – young families don’t have time to serve the community
  • upgrade the band and raise the decibel level – give it a concert feel
  • gear the sermons toward counseling rather than discipleship
  • more candy and games for the kids – no more boring memory verses
  • fun banners and bulletins
  • get everyone involved in an activity or group inside the church
  • change the “ask” message from Matthew 5:16 to Malachi 3:10

The scary part – it worked!  Smaller churches in the area simply couldn’t provide the same “customer” experience for consumers.  The church grew – in numbers, although not in disciples or impact.  New visitors came, but nearly all were from other churches.  Larger didn’t mean healthier.

Unfortunately there are still many people who won’t dare to darken the door of a church.  They’ve tried church, had a bad experience, and wouldn’t step back into one if their lives depended on it (and they may).

In those cases, the only choice is to “go” to them.

What if we built Powerful disciples who acting as the embodiment of church all week long?  How many more people could we reach with the gospel if members didn’t wait for them to show up at the building?  What if pastors scrapped tightly choreographed “consumer” retention strategies and threw caution to the wind?  What if we turned the table on church consumers?  What if pastors dared do some (or all) of the following?…

…increased service times

…reinstituted Sunday school and expected all to attend

…started an intensive 1-on-1 discipleship program for all congregants

…allocated 40% of the church budget to local outreach and missions

…told members to stop simply inviting non-believers to church and take personal responsibility for bringing people to Christ

…turned small groups into neighborhood groups tasked with BEING the church to the community where they meet

…asked all members to serve in Jesus’ name somewhere in the community at least once every month

Yes, it’s true that nearly all the “consumers” would soon take their business elsewhere.  However, would the church be healthier if disciples were the only ones left in the building?

It’s your turn…

What happened first?  Did most churchgoers become consumers (and then churches adapted to accommodate them), or did churches turn people into church consumers?