Tag Archives: Love your neighbor as yourself

Why Members Have No Business Criticizing Their Church

Mar 23, 16
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Punk guy looking at himself in a shattered mirror in the city streets

“I didn’t like that sermon on Sunday.  Seems like I’m not being fed much these days.”

“So many of our friends are no longer attending.  It doesn’t feel the same here anymore.”

“I wish they would play more of the old hymns.  Have you noticed the music is a little louder now?”

“Did you hear they’re talking about moving service times up a ½ hour?  Not sure that’s going to work for us.”

“I’m not sure I’m a big fan of the new associate pastor.  He hardly said a word to me when I met him last week.”

“Seems like we’re going a new direction with all these changes.  I like how it used to be.”

We’ve all heard comments like those from fellow church members.  Most of us have even said a couple of them at some point in our years at church.

We talked last week about the danger of criticizing those outside the church.  Casting verbal stones at the world reflects a misunderstanding of our role as the living, breathing church.  The Great Commission calls us to help rescue “sinners”, pursuing rather than distancing ourselves from those who don’t know the Lord.  Likewise, criticizing our own church also makes little sense.  It reflects a similar misunderstanding.  Read those quotes again.  Clearly, they mistakenly define church as an institution – the pastors, staff and buildings.  Yet members ARE the church, so complaining about church is an oxymoron.

Customers have every right to criticize a company.  The company is defined as the executives, employees, buildings and other assets.  Customers are “outsiders”, expecting quality products and customer service – anything short of that warrants complaints.  However, every pastor knows that members shouldn’t be customers of the church – they are “insiders”.  When members make those comments above, they’re providing further evidence of our core contention in this blog series – that churchgoers have come to see themselves as “consumers” of church and not the embodiment of it.

In short, members can’t judge the “church” without accusing themselves… 

Look in the Mirror

Ending criticism at your church requires a wholesale shift to the proper definition of the church’s “customer”.  When church members truly see themselves as the “church”, they instantly stop evaluating church in terms of what “it” does for them.  The “it” is them.  The question instead becomes what they (as the church) can do for the Lord.  Rather than evaluating the pastors, staff, services and facilities, members should be evaluating themselves.  Are they living up to the standard set for those commissioned to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ with their true “customer” – the lost in Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth?

“Do not judge others lest you be judged” and “remove the log from your own eye” take on new meaning when applied to our personal responsibilities as church members.  Criticizing “sinners” (outside the church) when we’re living in a glass house is not much different than criticizing our church when WE are the church.  Churchgoers wouldn’t feel at liberty to criticize those inside or outside the church if they better understood the role they’re intended to play between Sundays – as the only connection to “church” those “sinners” are going to have.  How well are we doing at that? 

We should each take a close look in the mirror first.  We won’t be looking for things to criticize if our minds are on our own responsibilities as the “church” rather the responsibilities of others.  For example, we expect to be “fed” during church services and if we’re not fed well, then we complain.  However, maybe viewing pastors as “church” (rather than ourselves) has shifted an undue amount of responsibility onto them to “feed” us.  If we better understood that we’re the church, we would take greater responsibility for feeding ourselves.  Have members largely abdicated their intended roles as “church” to pastors because it’s easier to sit back and enjoy the service – and then criticize church leaders if we don’t.  Powerful Christians aren’t built by sermons and small groups alone – it takes a great deal of personal Bible Study, prayer and discipleship.  Church “consumers” never become Powerful Christians – they remain Passive, Pensive or Private.

How Church Leaders (Unwittingly) Invite Criticism

Ironically, it’s church leaders who made churchgoers feel they have the right to criticize them.  Pastors and staff have conditioned members and attenders to evaluate how well the pastor is preaching, how the music sounds, how the political landscape of the church has shifted, and why leadership doesn’t recognize all they’ve done for the church by…

  • Rather than treating them as“insiders” (like employees of a company) charged with living out the Great Commission, they treat members like “outsiders”, hoping they will keep coming back
  • Failing to shift the mindsets of members outward toward their true “customer” – allowing them to continue to focus on their own needs versus those of the hurting and hopeless
  • Saying “you are all ministers” yet not adequately challenging, equipping or providing opportunities for them to minister to those around them
  • Not modeling compassion, service and relentless pursuit of the lost in the community

Sometimes pastors find it easier to take the criticism and try to make changes to appease than to shift the conversation back onto the intended role and responsibilities of the complainer.  It’s particularly scary to tell someone from an influential family or a patriarch of the church who brings up a minor issue to be more concerned with important matters like using that influence to reach more people for Christ.

How to End the Criticism

Implement these 7 strategies:

  1. Discipleship – Change the hearts and minds of your congregation about their role and responsibilities through personal discipleship. Once discipleship convinces them that they ARE church, they’ll stop looking for things to criticize.
  2. Replacement Strategy – Telling someone to stop thinking about a pink polka dotted elephant doesn’t work. Instead, we have to replace thoughts with something else.  To stop churchgoers from evaluating the church, get them to start evaluating their own effectiveness as the church personified.
  3. Redefine the “Customer” – Redirect the congregation’s attention to the dire need to reach the lost with the gospel, taking their focus off of how their needs are being met.
  4. Mobilize the “Troops” – Show churchgoers opportunities to serve as Jesus did, fighting a “ground war” with love and compassion as His first-strike artillery. Consider using Meet The Need to connect with local charities and empower local missions teams.
  5. Boldly Challenge Members – Churches are primarily gatherings of believers so don’t lose sight of the need to challenge believers in order to accommodate non-believers.  Instead, equip believers to reach non-believers on their own turf, which is primarily outside the “4 walls” of a church building.
  6. Model External Focus – Pastors can’t force anyone’s thinking to shift but they can certainly model behaviors they want members to imitate.  Begin spending more time and budget on activities to serve “outsiders” and “insiders” may follow suit.
  7. Speak Honestly about What’s OK to Criticize – Church leaders should be held accountable for how they conduct themselves and their ministry (e.g. humility, doctrines they teach, not showing favoritism, and staying true to the vision God gave them).

It’s Your Turn

Do you agree that most criticisms of churches are clear signs that members don’t see themselves as the church?  Why or why not?

How Churches Fight the Battles is Costing Us the War

Mar 16, 16
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Blog Post 38 - Boy with Bible (Unsplash photo-1442115597578-2d0fb2413734)1

Jesus didn’t have nearly as big a problem with “sinners” as He did with those criticizing them.

The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was fighting an “air war”, speaking out against those not living up to their standards.  The Pharisees occupied the high moral ground, following the letter of the law, yet not the spirit of it – a “ground war” of love and compassion (Luke 11:42).

Jesus didn’t mince words with them or anyone else He viewed as critical or judgmental.  A few familiar examples:

  • “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye…” (Luke 6:42)
  • “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” (John 8:7)
  • “You clean the outside of the cup and dish but inside…” (Matthew 23:25)
  • “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

How did Jesus do battle?

Compare that to how Jesus felt about the “sinners” those religious leaders condemned:

  • “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” (Mark 2:17)
  • “There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents…” (Luke 15:7)
  • “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)
  • “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day…you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:4)

Jesus clearly sought out “sinners”, spent time with them, healed them, served them, preached to them, and forgave them.  He did not “come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)

The Pharisees were jealous.  They thought – “If Jesus were truly the Messiah, He’d be hanging out with us, not with those people.”  But Jesus didn’t fraternize with religious zealots, instead spending his time pursuing prostitutes, drunkards and other “lower class” citizens.

Chances are Jesus would be doing the same today if He were walking the streets of your city.  He would be on a search-and-rescue mission to find the “lost sheep” and the “lost coin”, going places few church members today would dare to venture.  That’s likely where Jesus is most present and preoccupied right now in your city – with the orphans, widows, homosexuals, alcoholics and drug addicts.  He’s not as concerned about saving the righteous (Matthew 9:13) – those in small group meetings and church services across America.  Jesus calls us to join Him where He is hardest at work at this moment.

How do most churches do battle?

In contrast, the average active church member today:

  • Socializes more with Christians than with non-believers
  • Serves the church more than the lost in the community
  • Rarely evangelizes
  • Is not currently discipling someone
  • Will vote for president primarily based on a “hot-button” moral issue
  • Is concerned about America’s declining morality and values
  • Feels they sin less than those who don’t know the Lord

In other words, church members are too often Pensive, Passive and Private – not Powerful.  Jesus acted AND spoke – preceding the gospel with compassion.   We may love the sinner and hate the sin but every word we speak about our views on moral issues sound like judgment and criticism – because we haven’t followed Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love first.  In that respect, we haven’t earned the right to speak to culture – but we do anyway.

Rather than pursuing “sinners” as Jesus did, too many Christians maintain both a physical and moral distance.  Physically we don’t go near many of the dens of depravity the lost frequent.  Morally, we speak out about what we’re against, rather than exhibiting well what we’re for – which is the gospel, whose central tenet is love.  In God’s eyes the distance between “us” and “them” is minuscule – we’re the same, just forgiven.   We’re equally as sinful, just redeemed.

When Christians fight battles over values with words alone, they lose the war for hearts and minds.  In fact, we’re on the short end of nearly all of those battles as well.  As we said last weekName a moral issue that the church and Christians haven’t already lost, or appear likely to lose soon.”  

Keeping our distance, voicing our concern without adequately showing our concern, isn’t growing the church or helping its public perception.  The challenge Jesus issues to all church members is to BE the church even to those who stand for all that they’re against.  Those alienated by the condemnation they hear (through their filter) from Christians are less likely to step into a church building than ever.  So the only way to reach them is to leave the comfortable confines of our church buildings and small groups and stand in close proximity to them – but will we?

The problem with our battleplan…

What if Jesus no longer sees most American churchgoers as the “good” characters in the stories He told?  What if He associates them more with…

  1. the proud Pharisee who thanked God he wasn’t like the cheating tax collector (Luke 18:9-14)
  2. the brother who couldn’t figure out why His father would celebrate the return of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
  3. the stunned crowd wondering why Jesus was having dinner with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10)
  4. the priest or the church worker who unlike the Good Samaritan walked by the beaten robbery victim (Luke 10:30-37)
  5. the goats who didn’t care for the hungry, the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46)

Yes, it’s hard to dig far into any of the gospel accounts without coming across a case of Jesus illustrating the importance of pursuing rather than judging “sinners”.

In Jesus’ eyes, are Christians today walking by on the other side of the road?  Does Jesus feel His church is doing a good enough job of building disciples and mobilizing them to be a bright light to those living in the darkest corners of society?  The general public feels churches have become skyscrapers and warehouses, distant from the world yet judgmental of it.  Does Jesus agree with them?

How can your church adopt Jesus’ battleplan?

Flip the script and become the “good” characters in those 5 stories:

  1. Repentance – Like the cheating tax collector who never dared think of himself as morally superior to anyone else
  2. Rejoicing – Like the compassionate father who wildly celebrated the salvation of his wayward son
  3. Generosity – Like Zacchaeus who responded to overwhelming grace with breathtaking kindness
  4. Compassion – Like the Good Samaritan who not only stopped, but stuck around until all was well
  5. Mercy – Like the sheep who took time out from their busy lives and church activities to care for complete strangers

The Lord calls us to be Powerful Christians – not Passive, Pensive or Private.  He “desires mercy” (relationship), “not sacrifice” (religion).  In other words, He wants churchgoers to aggressively seek the lost exactly how He did – courageously stepping into possibly hostile territory rather than criticizing from afar.

It’s your turn…

Churches have the cure for “cancer” and know how to administer the prescription (because Jesus showed us), so why aren’t more churchgoers desperate to save lives, particularly of those who are most ill?

Are churches paving the way or setting up a roadblock?

Mar 09, 16
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Blog Post 37 - Road (Unsplash photo-1454678904372-2ca94103eca4)1

The American church is feeling the effects of several decades of no longer viewing the community as the “customer” and members as the embodiment of church.  Changing the definition of its “customer” has taken its toll:

  • rather than building a broad base of world-changing disciples, churches have built throngs of “consumers”
  • rather than growing and uniting a diverse “body”, what has grown is a small number of very large institutions
  • rather than attracting younger generations, youth are leaving the church in droves
  • rather than increasing in influence, an increasing number of Passive, Pensive and Private Christians have damaged the church’s public perception
  • rather than having a significant impact, the dearth of Powerful Christians has left communities wondering whether churches still care

In the past couple years, I’ve attended two gatherings of Christians from across the U.S. to strategize about ways to reverse the current course in America away from Biblical values.  Nearly identical, broad-consensus conclusions were reached at both events – churches are too busy taking care of their own affairs, whether in survival mode or growth planning, to play a meaningful part in the turnaround of American culture.

Instead, they believe a louder megaphone is the answer.  If Christians can recapture leadership roles on top of the 7 Mountains (government, media, religion, education, entertainment, family and business) then we can win the “culture war”.  It’s an election year and churchgoers are hoping a Christian will sit in the White House to shift the values of our nation back to those we hold dear.

Ground War or Air War?

We contend in this blog series that it’s that megaphone, used without first earning the right to do so, that has largely made Christians inaudible in most pockets of society today.   We’ve lost our voice because we haven’t followed Jesus’ model of compassionately serving before saying who He is.  Trying to “outpreach” Jesus, being so often heard yet rarely seen, has cost the church dearly.  The strategy of grabbing an even bigger megaphone – hoping people will care about what we know when they’re still not sure we care – will only drive the prevailing view of Christians and churches deeper into the hole.

Just because a Christian occupies a more powerful position at the peak of a mountain top does not necessarily amplify our voice.  In fact, if not accompanied by the mercy, justice and compassion Jesus demonstrated before speaking, more volume may just solidify the opposition’s resistance to our position on social issues.  Are churches and Christians winning the culture war today?  Name a moral issue that the church and Christians haven’t already lost, or appear likely to lose soon.

Why not choose a different weapon to fight the culture war?  The air war has failed.  Jesus waged a ground war first, of love and service to non-believers, then swooped in to fight an air war with the gospel message once the ground war had sufficiently weakened the opposition.

However, a ground war requires the right army – prepared, trained and properly motivated for battle – in other words, Powerful Christians.  Passive, Pensive and Private Christians are unfit for active duty.  Only disciples are ready and willing to head to the front lines – of praying, caring and, only then, sharing.

It’s no wonder so many Christian leaders no longer consider the church a base from which to build an army.  Churches provide some “basic training” but lack the deep discipleship and commitment to rapid deployment necessary to establish a powerful military force.  Pastors rarely if ever step into the drill sergeant role, willing to challenge even long-standing church members to charge boldly onto the battlefield, no matter what the cost.  They believe those faithful church members form the foundation upon which to build the institution – and fear pushing them too hard may risk toppling the entire structure.  It would also be risky to unite with other churches in battle – yet making a significant dent in the fight against social issues like hunger and homelessness requires more soldiers than any one church has at its disposal.

So like Rusty, the Pensive Christian in last week’s blog post, most churchgoers engage only at arms length in the culture war.  They join the air war, the chorus of so many Monday morning quarterbacks, bemoaning the declining moral fabric of our nation.  They are quick to speak out on moral issues, drawing those battle lines.  Yet few strap on their boots and sling a rifle over their shoulders, heading into the trenches, getting their hands dirty in the ground war of loving service.  The unchurched knows what Christians are against, but don’t believe we stand for them.  The more we dig our feet in, the less we can connect with them – and the less they can identify with us.  We can win the battle but lose the war – which is our calling to love.

Yes, the hesitancy of pastors to lay out the costs of discipleship and call members to the level of commitment Jesus intended in the Great Commission has paved the road that our nation is now on.  It’s a slippery slope – with the opposition to Christian values and ideals firmly entrenched against us at this point.  It may not be too late to set up a roadblock, a ground war of loving compassion, but after decades of launching air attacks, the runway is getting short.

What Will the Battleground Look Like?

Churches and Christians face mounting obstacles in the years to come.  Generating meaningful impact, material influence and positive perception will be more difficult as the following emerging trends further unfold:

  • Persecution in the form of:
    • Shaming in the media and politics
    • Viewing any reference to Biblical perspectives that run counter to what is considered socially acceptable to be hate-speak
    • Inability to mention the name of Jesus in government settings, selectively eliminating His name from the “free speech” lexicon (Jesus was the one word I was specifically asked not to mention at the “Great American Teach In” at my son’s public school)
    • Preventing pastors from expressing opinions that go against court decisions or publicly-held views on moral questions, even from the pulpit
    • Refusing to hire those who do not disavow Biblical views on certain hot-button issues
    • Making “coming out of the closet” far more applicable to Christians today, particularly in public schools, requiring courage in the face of the stigma that label carries with it
    • As population growth and conversion rates among other religious groups outstrip the birth and conversion rates of Christians, physical persecution of Christians will ensue once those groups grab popular majorities in localities, cities, states and some day even nationally
  • Forced removal of Christian objects and symbols from all public venues except for church buildings and private homes
  • Requiring Christians to comply with laws that defy Biblical principles

In essence churches and Christians face relegation to a corner, rarely visible in the mainstream, in the not-too-distant future.  Lest you view that as impossible here in the U.S., look at Western Europe where similar internal-focus on the part of churches and similar social trends led to that same inevitable outcome.

How Can We Win the Culture War?

Christ’s church will prevail.  With increased persecution will likely come greater resolve.  Churches will begin to produce more Powerful Christians.  Lukewarm, on the fence churchgoers won’t persist when challenges come their way.  Those conditioned for comfort and “consumption” will have some tough decisions to make.  Many passive, pensive and private Christians will run and hide – too afraid to speak or act.  Only true disciples of Jesus Christ will endure the trials by fire – willing to take a stand, refusing to back down when threats to their faith increase.  Only those whose lives are changed can change lives.  The good news is it took just a few disciples of Jesus to reverse the course of history.

Winning the culture war requires:

  • Taking Ground – Training and mobilizing masses of churchgoers to infiltrate their spheres of influence
  • Redefining the Church’s “Customer” – Viewing the community as the “customer” and building disciples on fire to reach the lost with the gospel through service and evangelism
  • Raising Expectations of Members – Viewing members as the church personified and emphasizing that the cost of discipleship will be high
  • Following Jesus’ model – Realizing the importance of linking actions with words (James 2:15-16)
  • Building an Army of Powerful Christians – Who truly live out the Great Commission
  • Serving Relationally, not TransactionallySegue events into year-round service, focus on outcomes and outputs, and be there for families in need

The church must turn nearly all members into ministers – making that more than a trite catchphrase.  A fully trained and effective army that cares and shares could turn the tide on how churches and Christians are viewed.  If society begins to see the love of Jesus through the service of Christians, a new generation of believers will emerge from the ground up to one day occupy those mountain top positions.  But attempts to take over the 7 mountains from the top down will further diminish the influence and public perception of the church and Christianity, continuing to pave the way for the mounting challenges to our faith.

It’s Your Turn

Is your church building and deploying an army capable of withstanding the assault on the gospel that’s forthcoming?

Which of These 4 Types of Christians is Your Church Producing?

Mar 02, 16
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Blog Post 36 - Train Tracks (Unsplash photo-1434871619871-1f315a50efba)

Churches should model the behavior they want members to imitate.

Yet as we’ve discussed the past three weeks, few churches are having a continual, relational and meaningful impact in their communities.  Instead, most:

It’s not surprising that church members and attenders have followed suit when it comes to living out the Great Commission, falling into one of four camps:

1.  Passive Christians


Bill hardly misses a Sunday.  He volunteers as a greeter one weekend a month, gives regularly and hosted a small group last year.  By all accounts, Bill’s an active church member.  Considering how busy he is with career and a young kids, he does his fair share.  There’s not much time left over for charity work, nor is that something Bill thinks much about – and it’s not a big emphasis at his church.  However, his pastor does mention inviting people to church pretty frequently and Bill loves his church so he’s done that a few times.  When it comes to evangelism, that’s about as far as Bill typically goes – he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his faith and rarely broaches “religion” with coworkers or friends.

2.  Pensive Christians


Rusty is concerned about where America is headed.  Unlike Bill, he’s not afraid to talk about religion or politics.  As a Christian since the early 1980s he’s watched the country go downhill, increasingly upset as our moral foundation crumbles under the weight of every secular, liberal court decision.  Rusty’s church recently held a ministry fair inviting members to express interest in local causes like hunger relief, the homeless or foster care.  However, what caught Rusty’s eye was the Christian conservative radio ministry asking for support to continue fighting for the values that made our nation great.  Rusty signs up and notices that over 150 others had done so as well, whereas none of the other compassion ministries had more than 20 on their lists.

3.  Private Christians


Stephanie is one of the nicest, most compassionate people at her church.  She’s always there for anyone who’s going through a tough time – a family at church, a neighbor, coworker, friend or even a complete stranger.  In fact, Stephanie is so caring that she would never want to offend anyone.  If she knows that person is a Christian, she’ll talk about her faith and offer to pray for them.  Otherwise, she keeps her personal beliefs to herself because they’re just that – personal.  Her husband, Jeff, is just as kind-hearted, frequently donating money to local charities, but equally reluctant to impose his ideals on others.

4.  Powerful Christians


Unlike Bill, Rusty, Stephanie and Jeff, Tamara isn’t passive, pensive or private – she’s both personable and public.  She’s a disciple, following Jesus’ model of meeting felt needs to open the door to sharing who He is.  Tamara never misses an opportunity to do both, seeing wherever she happens to be at the time as her designated mission field.  She understands she IS the church between Sundays.  Tamara is deeply concerned not only with each person’s welfare in this life but also their assurance of eternal life.  She knows the Great Commission doesn’t stop at a single good deed or the planting of a “seed” – it’s about investing in longer-term relationships.

Which of the 4 are Most Common Today?

Church leaders play a significant role in influencing whether its members are passive, pensive, private or powerful.  Churches today are producing far too many of the first three.  Few churchgoers see themselves as the embodiment of church once they walk out the front door.  They may be active participants in church but they’re not the personification of it outside.  In effect, they’re “customers” of churches who fear most would leave if asked to endure the level of commitment and discipleship required of those entrusted to BE the church all week long.

Yes, Powerful Christians are a rare breed these days, not often sighted in churches that:

  • cater to members, hesitant to challenge them with the reality of what it truly means to live out the Great Commission
  • emphasize serving inside the church continually but offer few chances to reach out to the poor and lost in the community
  • focus more on build an institution than building disciples that “take ground” outside the four walls

Joining a church alone doesn’t make someone a Powerful Christian any more than simply joining a gym makes someone a powerful weightlifter.  Both require hard work and endurance.  Only intensive and extended training will dramatically change their lives.  That’s why a large or growing church isn’t necessarily a healthy church – showing up, serving and giving doesn’t mean a churchgoer will make a difference for Christ between Sundays.  Active church members are not necessarily disciples.  Disciples would never stop at being passive, pensive or private.  Disciples are healthy, impactful, forever changed – in other words, powerful.

Implications for the Future 

Why do so many Christians fall into the first 3 categories?  Why do most no longer have an acute sense of urgency to see the lost saved?  Jesus didn’t intend for churches and the Christian walk to be as comfortable as they are in America today.  Never did He expect His followers to be complacent or content – “consuming” church on Sunday and doing little to serve the Lord Monday through Saturday – while surrounded by the helpless and hopeless.  How many churchgoers realize they’ve stepped into a mission field the second they get back in their cars in the church parking lot?  How many try to win people to Christ and spend time making disciples each and every week?

Unfortunately, many have come to view church as a “safe” place to worship and fellowship, not courageous enough to act and speak in the light of day.  Yet we’re called to live boldly in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to our faith.  Ironically, it is likely our lack of impetus and preparation to be the hands and feet of Christ that have largely precipitated and fueled the attacks on Christianity that have already occurred.

What will happen if churches remain hesitant to challenge members to adopt the level of commitment and courage demanded by Jesus?  How much longer can we remain satisfied with most Christians being passive, pensive or private? 

The road is about to become much more rocky for followers of Jesus Christ.  Only Powerful Christians will be ready for what’s coming next.  We must be ready and willing to take a stand.  But will we?  We’ll discuss those topics more next week…

It’s Your Turn

Which of those four types of Christians is your church primarily producing?

Why do churches turn away families at the door?

Feb 24, 16
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Blog Post 35 - Single Mom (iStock_000000535682XSmall)

A single mom with two young children walked into a 200 member church looking for help.  Her lights are going to be turned off next week if she doesn’t come up with enough cash to pay her power bill.  She also needs clothes for the older of the two and a better stroller than one she has with the bent wheel.  From the way she’s looking down when making the request, the staff member picked up a sense of shame and an expectation of rejection.  It seemed likely she’d been to few other churches in the neighborhood and received a polite explanation from each as to why they weren’t in a position to help.

How would most churches respond?

“We don’t have enough in our budget.  Sorry, it’s been a tough year.”

“There’s a charity down the road that can help you with that.  Have you checked with them?”

“If you start coming to our church, I’m sure we can find a way to do something.”

What’s really going on is the church…

…didn’t make any room in its budget for benevolence for local families

…is not willing to share needs of non-member individuals and families with the congregation, even though some of them could likely help

…has no way to easily communicate needs to members even if it were willing to do so

…isn’t sure who those walk-ins are and is worried about being taken advantage of

Today, the vast majority of families approaching churches for help are quickly, yet courteously, turned away.  Churches miss those opportunities because they don’t see them as just that – opportunities.  They’ve redefined the “customer”.  Attention, funding, facilities, and programs have been redirected to attracting and retaining – building an organization.  Struggling individuals and families in the community are no longer recognized as valued “customers”.  Few churches still follow Jesus’ model of leading with service and compassion, then telling them who He is.  Consequently, the role of church in society has changed – with the pastor’s blessing.

What would your church do if this young mother walked in the front door?

Should your church do something?

  • Biblically – Jesus healed and fed those who weren’t his followers – at least not yet.  Once they experienced His love and power, most became followers.  Jesus also sent the disciples out not unarmed but fully supplied with the artillery necessary to open ears and eyes to the gospel – the ability to heal.  Numerous times Jesus, Paul and Peter spoke of the importance of helping the poor, linking it inextricably to the sharing of the good news of hope found in Christ alone.
  • Historically – Since America’s founding, churches have been the “center of town” – the cultural, charitable, academic, and spiritual hub in cities across the country. Government and secular charities weren’t the “go to” sources of assistance when times got tough.  Families could walk into a church and leadership and/or members would do what they could.  As the local food bank and homeless shelter, a significant portion of the church’s income went toward supporting the “least of these” – and not just those attending on Sunday.  Rather than offering “hand outs”, churches formed relationships with those hurting and helpless, working with them to extend a “hand up”.

Whether a church will do something depends on its:

  • Definition of the “Customer” – If leadership and members see the lost in the community as their “customers”, clearly they will sense an obligation to serve those who don’t know the gospel – many of whom would never step foot into a church building. Yet church leaders are unlikely to be as conscious of their responsibilities outside the “4 walls” if they’re busy placating members and attenders who are conditioned to evaluate how well the pastor is preaching, how the music sounds, how the political landscape of the church has shifted, and why leadership doesn’t recognize all they’ve done for the church.  Bible verses that begin with “I desire compassion…” and “Pure religion…” won’t be ringing in their ears if criticisms are on the tips of their tongues. 
  • Definition of the “Church” – If leaders and members truly see those in the pews as the embodiment of “church” – a decentralized army rather than a centralized institution – then suddenly the burden to help local families is dispersed among the many versus the few.  Even if a church has budget for benevolence and is willing to bless a non-member, maybe the impact would be far greater if members assisted families in need directly.  Pastors and staff don’t have capacity to build long term relationships with many local families – but that kind of leverage does reside there in the sanctuary.  In this scenario, the task of leadership is only to communicate needs and prepare members to BE the church at every opportunity.  That responsibility should also carry over throughout the week, where each congregant acts as the church personified – caring and sharing with neighbors, friends and coworkers in need of help and hope.

What if churches don’t do anything?

Fewer people in need approach churches for help today because they don’t think churches are willing to help.  However, studies show that people generally believe churches should be among the first to help.  That dichotomy creates the prevailing poor perception of churches and Christians by society.  Every family in need that churches turn away at the door drives home the idea that they’re more about judgment than compassion – deeper and deeper into the American psyche.  Every time a pastor speaks out on cultural, social, or moral issue when that church hasn’t demonstrated a commensurate degree of mercy to the needy – the ditch widens.  To the unchurched, Christians haven’t earned the right to be heard.  Jesus realized people “don’t care what you know until they know you care” – they traveled miles on foot to hear what Jesus had to say because He proved He cared each and every day.  The gradual detachment of caring from sharing – abdicating that role to others – is possibly the most damaging trend in the history of the church in America.

What exactly should your church do?

Because of that growing perception, churches simply can’t keep turning people away.  Instead churches should:

  • Assist families even if they don’t go to that church – Imitating the first church at Antioch and being wary of abuses are valid reasons to focus more assistance on congregants.  However, as we’ve discussed the church is clearly called to serve the poor regardless of their religious or church affiliation.  As we’ve contended throughout this blog series, churches today invest disproportionately in catering and caring for members versus challenging and mobilizing them to bless others.  [Note: Remember the “Alternative View” we mentioned a few weeks ago which holds that corporate worship is only for those whose names are registered in heaven (Hebrews 12:23).  Under that interpretation, all churches that won’t help families who aren’t part of that church, assuming that the church is only supposed to be made up of believers, are logically precluding doing anything to help non-believers.  In this case, the only way churches can follow Jesus’ model of caring then sharing is if members individually act AS the church and choose to help those who aren’t Christians.]
  • Don’t be so quick to refer them to an agency or charity – Follow this sequence to show your true “customers” that your church and the Lord cares for them when they ask you for help:
    • Step 1 – Show Respect: Take the time to get to know them.  Listen to their story, ask questions, learn their name, and pray with them.
    • Step 2 – Show Compassion: James 2:15-16 warns that simply saying “Go in peace” or “Be warm, be fed” isn’t enough.  Make some effort to help, like sharing their need with members via Meet The Need, which manages all communication logistics.
    • Step 3 – Make Assistance Relational: Don’t do a “transaction” and send them on their way (outputs).  Ensure a member gets to know each individual/family personally (outcomes).
    • Step 4 – If You Refer, Follow up: If your church/members can’t provide all they need, refer them to a local agency, but contact the agency yourself about the family.  Ask for an update on what the agency was able to do for them.
    • Step 5 – Stay Connected: Church should be the place the family lands when they get back on their feet.  An agency or charity can’t put them in relationship with believers and lead them closer to Christ over time.
  • Carve out more for benevolence – The modern day model for running a church that attracts and engages “consumers” leaves little over for assisting members in need, much less those outside the church.  Remember, the lost in the community, not members, are your “customer”.  Cut operational costs that are not playing a direct role in equipping and challenging members and regular attenders to BE the church to those around them (see blog post on Generosity).

It’s your turn

What would happen to the perception of churches, Christians and the Lord if all churches in America followed the 5 step process above?  Do you know of a church that has implemented that process, or something similar?

Why churches should care more about outcomes than outputs

Feb 17, 16
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Blog Post 34 - Feed the Bay Food

A large church in California decided it was time to stop relying on the county to represent the “front line” of compassion – while churches stood idly by.  Government can’t deliver hope – only help.  The church approached county leadership, offering to be an outpost for job training and placement services.  Not only did the county accept their offer, the church experienced a higher success rate than the agency was having!

Stepping forward to do something to help struggling families is commendable.  Delivering in such a way that those within ear-shot sit up and take notice changes lives – and transforms communities.

Churches shouldn’t simply provide assistance and be satisfied with any level of achievement.  Businesses seek to maximize customer satisfaction and loyalty because that drives profits.  Churches should seek to maximize their effectiveness in making a difference in the lives of its “customers” – the lost in the community – because that’s what Jesus did.

What are outcomes versus outputs?

Outputs are what an organization does.  In business, outputs may be making a sales call or responding to a customer complaint.  In local missions, outputs may be serving a meal or handing out a toy.  Missions directors prepare ministry reports, primarily holding them accountable for outputs, judging their productivity based on those numbers.

Churches who look through the lens of how much it does, and not the long-term impact of what it does, are giving members an easy out – treating members as “customers”.  In other words, it’s much more difficult to persist in doing good to the point of changing lives than to “check the box”, satisfied with having done something good.   However, as we discussed last week, churches are hesitant to challenge members to do the “hard stuff” because there are always churches down the road willing to pat members on the back for merely doing the “easy stuff”.

Outputs are about us – the church.

On the other hand, outcomes are what happens as a result of what we do.  Outcomes don’t focus on how much activity but how much impact.  For churches, community engagement should be about seeing lives changed.  Yet how do we know if lives changed if we don’t maintain long-term relationships?

Only churches who see the community as the “customer” will be so genuinely concerned with outcomes that it will invest materially and spiritually in the lives of those who don’t (and may never) attend their church.  Only churches who see members as the church personified will adequately disciple them to endure in serving others over the long haul, and taking personal responsibility for making disciples – not stopping at extending invitations to church next Sunday.

Outcomes are about them – those hurting and hopeless.

Is your church about outputs?

  1. What do you measure? – It’s much more difficult to track qualitative outcomes than quantitative outputs. Measuring the true effectiveness of a compassion ministry requires understanding where people are now – are they better off today, with food on the table in Christ in their hearts?  If “how many…” is the first question asked, then chances are your local missions activities are more about outputs than outcomes.
  2. If you do events, how do you follow up? – When the dust settles, is the church catching its collective breath, celebrating the successful event, or racing to follow up with all those it encountered?  When a conference ends, businesses immediately start chasing down every person they met and entering every business card in their database.  Yet churches run events and crusades come through town, leaving behind a trail of new seekers or believers with little to no further contact.  Even those making professions of faith are largely left to their own devices unless they decide to show up at a church.  It’s staggering to see the statistics of how few people who accept Christ at concerts or revivals are still walking with the Lord, living out their faith, just a few years later.  Event leaders are quick to cite attendance and professions, but not how many actually got plugged into a local church.
  3. How does your church invest its time in members? – Maybe event leaders were counting on whoever invited each person to answer their questions and disciple them. However, as we’ve discussed sermons and small groups haven’t proved adequate for building disciples – or disciple makers.  Most churchgoers don’t view themselves as the embodiment of church, instead seeing their task as inviting people to church, leaving the rest to pastors and staff.  However, someone who comes to faith after hearing the gospel at a Christian event (because the gospel is powerful) may have preconceived notions and wariness about stepping into church (because in their minds churches haven’t reflected that gospel well).  We have to go to them, meeting them where they are – not wait for them to come to us.
  4. Do you have long term service programs? – Are your church’s local missions activities designed to be transactional or relational?  Are there a few sporadic campaigns or sustained compassion initiatives?  Has your church adopted any causes that it feels strongly about addressing?  If so, is a significant percentage of the congregation involved?  All of this to say, how sincere is the church’s concern with the welfare of its intended “customer”?

How can your church become about outcomes?

Success in any venture hinges on following a proven process for generating desired outcomes.  There is no greater venture for a church than following Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love and sharing His message, bringing help and hope to a world desperately in need of both.  If more churches evaluated the success of their local missions work based on the actual difference made over the long term (outcomes) versus what they did (outputs), we would see a reversal of the Church’s declining growth, impact, influence and perception.

Let’s look at the outcome-driven process utilized by successful organizations of any kind:

  1. Focus – on target “customers” (i.e. the lost in the community) and their felt needs. No venture is successful if it pursues the wrong “customer”, or ignores their most pressing issues.  Determine where your church can make the biggest difference in your community for Christ.  For more insights on this step, read our eBook Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months.
  2. Align – leaders within the church around the need to shift greater focus outward despite certain resistance by “institution builders”
  3. Set Goals – or expectations for desired outcomes as more members engage in cause(s) and live out the Great Commission
  4. Rally – the entire congregation around the need to apply their skills and interests in some way toward the critical cause and goal of being a light to an ever darkening world
  5. Train – members to each do their parts through discipleship emphasizing that they should be the living, breathing church to those around them between Sundays
  6. Organize – the troops, putting staff and lay leaders in positions of authority and holding them accountable for outcomes, not outputs
  7. Challenge – even infrequent attenders and visitors to get involved. Many are millenials who left church because churches didn’t share their concern for justice and compassion.  Life transformation occurs as seekers turn their attention to the needs of others and witness God’s love in action.
  8. Invest – dollars strategically in creating relational outcomes rather than tactically in transactional outputs
  9. Track – whether the church is actually making a dent, in alleviating homelessness, hunger, illiteracy, etc. and in bringing the community to Christ
  10. Maintain – the emphasis on outcomes, evaluating and repeating steps 1 through 9 as necessary

Churches take internal aspects of their ministry that seriously – following that entire process – because most treat those in attendance as “customers”.  Have you seen churches take their engagement with the community – their intended “customer” – just as seriously?

It’s your turn

If your church closed its doors tomorrow, would it be missed by your community?

Why church events often do more harm than good

Feb 10, 16
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Blog Post 33 - Feed the Bay Truck

A ministry working with troubled youth couldn’t find any churches to provide mentors willing to invest the long, painstaking hours required to lead them into a relationship with the Lord and a better way of life.  Gradually, as the ministry sought Christian mentors through all available avenues, a few stepped up.  When prodding to learn what each of these mentors had in common, it turned out they had all been discipled by another individual.  Someone had invested in them the same way they were now pouring into someone else.

Not enough churches are challenging members to step out of their comfort zones and do the hard work of building intentional relationships and loving people to Christ over the longer term.  Instead, churches fear pushing churchgoers too hard, lest they head to a church down the road still catering to the congregation, promising “cheap grace” and reducing local missions to a couple quick compassion events.

What’s wrong with events?

The church was the food bank and homeless shelter for 1900 years.  It was engaged year round, helping deal with pressing social issues.  Churchgoers were expected to be salt and light to those around them between Sundays, following Jesus’ lead, acting as both servant and evangelist continually.

Yet the priorities of church leaders and members have shifted.  Assistance programs are handled by the government and local charities.  Only a small fraction of church members regularly serve outside the “4 walls”, while the rest occasionally write a check or sign up for an event.  Leaders have gotten busy running the church and members are busy with work, paying bills and raising families.  Nearly all churches today merely “dabble” in compassion in the community, running infrequent events that unfortunately…

  • Are transactional, not relational
  • Don’t address the real, ongoing issues in the lives of the lost
  • Fail to make meaningful or lasting change, providing a handout rather than a hand up
  • Fuel negative perception by making society question whether the event was simply promotion, or meant to make members feel good for having done something (versus truly caring about others)
  • Give the impression members are back at church patting themselves on the back for the good they did over the holidays when those in need are still hungry and hurting in January and February
  • Enable the church to “check the box”, giving pastors, staff and members a false sense of accomplishment

Yet church is the only source of enduring help and hope – found in Christ alone.  Government and secular charities can’t do that.  And church is the best place for seekers to land, to fellowship with other believers and grow in Christ.  Churches miss so many opportunities to reach people by abdicating relational compassion to other organizations and relying on transactional events.  Jesus’ model was to heal and feed and then say who He was, knowing the words weren’t enough.  Why do the vast majority of churches today try to “outpreach” Jesus?

So why do churches do events?

With all that downside, why would churches use events as the primary vehicle for local missions?  As with all other topics we’ve addressed in this blog, the answer lies in the Church’s gradual redefinition of its “customer”:

  • Reliance on events came with the territory as churches shifted from viewing the community to seeing members as their “customers”.  In other words, long-term relational engagement is much better for the community, but events are much better for institution-building and for catering to members:
    • As we discussed in our opening story, tasks like mentoring troubled youth are hard
    • Churches are cautious about challenging members to do the hard stuff
    • Getting members to do hard stuff requires discipleship, which is hard too
    • Because most churches don’t challenge members to develop the right mindset about their role as the embodiment of church between Sundays, few go out of their way to take on the tough tasks
  • So churches give members the “easy stuff” that keeps them coming back like:
    • a food drop-off in the church foyer
    • on campus meal packing
    • taking up an offering
    • a quick 3 hour event run by church staff
  • Events have the side benefit in the eyes of church leaders of building the “brand” by making a big splash (whereas long term engagement is quiet and behind the scenes)
  • Ironically, event management is harder on church staff but since most pastors and staff act as if they are the “church” and members are “customers”, they’re willing to endure that extra work rather that risk losing members by asking too much of them

What should churches be doing instead?

The greatest impact on the lives of individuals, the welfare of the community, and the advancement of the Kingdom comes from service that is highly:

  • Compassionate – e.g. shut-in and hospital visitation (for non-members)
  • Enduring – e.g. school partnerships
  • Relational – e.g. tutoring
  • Loving – e.g. prison ministry
  • Challenging – e.g. foster care
  • Sacrificial – e.g. inner city
  • Interactive – e.g. neighborhood outreach by small groups
  • Invitational – e.g. open the church for weekly career coaching, marriage counseling, recovery ministry, health/wellness classes, etc.

It’s Your Turn

What other ministries have you seen churches run which fit those criteria and are making a huge difference in a community?

10 Keys to Advancing “Seekers” to Maturity

Feb 02, 16
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Blog Post 32 - Nurse and Old Woman (iStock_000004996552XSmall)

Part 3 of 3

Seekers are “customers” – churches should win them to Christ by whatever means necessary, which may include appealing to the self-interest you’d expect of “customers”.  Seekers are understandably self-centered – looking for hope, meaning, purpose, community, happiness – answers.  They come in shopping for something – “what can the church or religion do for me?”.  As we discussed last week, “elementary and high school” churches are designed for seekers – spiritual children.  Children are immature.  Maturity essentially boils down to the degree of self-centricity.  Caring for others is learned.  A child has to be taught to think of someone other than themselves.

Just as we educate our children so they’ll stop being absorbed with self, new believers must be trained (i.e. discipled) to stop being consumed with self.  Otherwise, even though they’ve come to faith, they’ll continue to be immature.  Graduating to a higher level of education in their walk with Christ means coming to grips with what it means to BE the church – in other words, selfless.  Paul refers to that process as dying to self – being crucified with Christ.  The new believer has joined that camp of those called to die to self, just as a maturing child should put aside childish things and learns to put others first.

However, if churches don’t challenge and disciple new believers (i.e. spiritual children) all the way to maturity, they’ll remain “consumers” of church rather than the church personified.

Changing the Seeker’s Mindset

Selflessness can permeate and transform a church culture.  Not only will selflessness manifest itself in how members care for each other but it will be evident in how the church body (as a whole) cares for the church’s true “customer” – the community where the church is planted.  That’s when the transition from childhood to adulthood is complete.  When members recognize the “fields” are white for harvest and take personal responsibility for seeking seekers – in other words, being the Church.

Yet members won’t arrive at that place of maturity unless they come to realize…

  1. …where the “fields” are

Many today think that planting a church in a community means we’re “in the field”, and believe that churchgoers in the normal course of daily life will be good harvesters.  However, most churches don’t prepare or empower members adequately – typically only asking them to invite people to church, leaving evangelism to the “professionals”.  How many churchgoers share their faith or even talk about God between Sundays, except with their Christian friends?

  1. …why they’re at church

They are not at church to be served but to serve.  They are Christ’s body, designed for praying, caring and sharing.  Instilling a service versus consumer mindset will mean eventually members and attenders become less dependent on the church for what it can do for them and more engaged in being the church to others.

  1. …challenging is Biblical, catering is not

No longer catering to churchgoers doesn’t mean churches stop taking care of their members or ignore them.  Church is a family.  However, it does means transitioning members’ thinking about their role by investing more in challenging them (e.g. with the Great Commission).

  1. …the urgency of the need

It’s human nature to need a cause outside of ourselves to force us to look beyond ourselves.  The hopelessness of the lost in the community should be a mission-critical, common cause for every church.   There are also often pressing social issues such as homelessness, hunger or troubled youth around which a church can rally.  See our short eBook – Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months.

  1. …their own problems may not be as bad as they thought

Once churchgoers shift their focus to bigger problems in the world around them, their maturity process kicks into high gear.  Self-absorption only drives people deeper and deeper into their own “stuff”, whereas loving their neighbors is the path to “recovery”.

Changing the Pastor’s Mindset

Pastors have to lead the way or the congregation won’t reach maturity – dying to self and taking the Great Commission as seriously as Jesus intended.  Before pastors can help others adopt this new mindset, their own must adjust accordingly…

  1. …around “parenting”

Pastors are raising too many spiritual children in the church today.  They fear consumers will leave if they challenge them to have a dramatic impact on the world around them – so they don’t.  Enabling and coddling, particularly of long-time members/attenders, has to stop. The Kingdom needs more disciples – and disciple makers.

  1. …around expectations

Rather than seeing members as voluntary participants in church activities, view them in their proper light as “insiders” – more like employees charged with real responsibilities both within and outside the “4 walls.”  Historically, democracies fail because politicians eventually give too much away in order earn votes.  Churches offering cheap grace perpetuate the church’s current decline in growth, impact, influence and perception. (see 2 Timothy 4:1-5)

  1. …around the term “externally focused”

We throw around that term as if it’s an optional characteristic of certain churches, or somehow deserving of merit.  Yet externally-focused is what the Great Commission dictates every church should have as a core competency.  I wonder whether the Lord is pleased with any church that’s not “externally focused” – one that doesn’t adequately prepare, send and serve such as to win more to Christ.

  1. …around giving back

People in the midst of building their careers often think “once I get where I’m trying to go, then I’ll start to give back”.  Countless times I’ve seen and heard pastors say similar things – “We just need to get the new building done, then…” or “Once we get a little bigger, we can have more impact, then…”.  Be a generous church now – at any size or any stage of development.

  1. …around how to share the gospel

Too many pastors and churches try to “outpreach” Jesus.  He had the perfect words, but knew they weren’t enough.  The Church’s gradual relinquishing of the front-line compassion role in society to others over the past 100 years, no longer following Jesus’ model, instead telling people who Jesus is without showing them first, has severely damaged society’s view of Christians and the Church.

It’s Your Turn

Which of these points stands out to you as most responsible for why more churchgoers aren’t reaching “maturity” today?

What do seekers find at your church?

Jan 20, 16
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Blog Post 30 - Couple in Financial Trouble (iStock_000010305294XSmall)

Part 1 of 3

What is a seeker?

Not every churchgoer is ready to be challenged.  A church’s expectations of visitors can’t be high.  Seekers may be in a church but they’re not the “church” – at least not yet.  They’re still a “customer” – the lost searching for answers.

Churches should emulate Paul, “becoming all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  Advertising, facilities, programs, etc. are all fair game for attracting “customers” to come in to a church.  Better yet, go out to them on their turf, on their terms, to show them the love of Jesus Christ as He did – healing, feeding and serving before telling them who He is.

Today, the first strategy of asking seekers to come to us has largely replaced us going to them.  Attraction via amenities has proved time consuming and expensive, not leaving much staff bandwidth or church budget to invest in community engagement.  Likewise, fear of losing members, those who pay for the amenities, keeps churches from challenging members boldly to live out the Great Commission in the world around them.

How did they become a seeker?

Maybe they witnessed Christians showing kindness – and are curious

When they come into the church are they seeing kindness lived out by the church?  Are they seeing opportunities to give back to those in need in the community?

Maybe something happened to them – and they want answers

Are they getting those answers within the first couple times they finally dare to step into a church?  Or are they getting life lessons that sound more like counseling than Christianity?  How long will they keep coming back if they don’t find the answers they need?

Maybe they hit rock bottom – and are not only ready to hear, but to accept

They’re still “customers”, but they’re more ready to “buy what you’re selling”.  Yet are they hearing the gospel and getting a compelling invitation to commit their lives to Jesus?

Maybe they’ve seen the fellowship of believers – and they want community

Few today probably see church as the place to make new friends, particularly given the common perception of churches today as more judgmental than caring.  If they do show up, how many will be comfortable joining in church activities out of the gate?

What do seekers hear when they get to church?

Yet when seekers show up at church, they too often hear:

  • More about how to have a better life than to turn theirs over to Christ
  • Weekly invitations to serve yet quarterly invitations to be baptized
  • More about classes to become a member than classes to become a disciple
  • Many ways to give to the church versus many ways to impact the community

I’ll never forget finally convincing an atheist friend to come to church, only to have the pastor harp throughout about inviting friends and serving at the church.  A seeker darkened the doors that day – open to hearing answers to deep questions.  What he got instead was validation of his suspicions – that church was about church.  Of course, he never came back.

When seekers walk in, do they see Christ or an institution?  Do they see a factory producing output or a warehouse storing inventory?  Do they see a healthy, organic entity growing “out” as it grows “up”, infiltrating and infusing all aspects of society with the love of Jesus?

Unfortunately, most churches today still subscribe to Invite, Involve, Invest, the “rallying cry of the internally-focused church”, as their growth model – keeping too many seekers from finding what they’re looking for.

If a seeker finds Christ…

A few weeks ago we asked the question, “At what point in a Christian’s walk with the Lord are they ready to be challenged with the Great Commission?”  Once a seeker becomes a Christ-follower, they are no longer a “customer”.  They ARE the church – the living, breathing hands and feet of Christ.

As business executives know, new “converts” are some of a company’s best “evangelists”.  They’re excited, raving fans.  That excitement typically subsides over time.  In the case of new Christians, nothing is more exciting than the conversion of a “customer” of the church to the “church” personified.  So why don’t churches encourage these new Christians to tell everyone they know about their newfound faith?   They know enough about Jesus to accept Him as their Lord and Savior – surrendering their very lives to Him.  Doesn’t that qualify the new believer as a spokesperson for Christ – sharing why they made such a drastic decision?  Some of the most impactful Christians I know are often those who are least indoctrinated.  Jesus sent His disciples out quickly – before they were necessarily ready – knowing they may not have all the answers but providing them valuable on-the-job training.

But instead churches continue treating new Christians as “customers”, asking them to:

Why are pastors still “selling” when new Christians are no longer “customers”?  Why aren’t churches taking a few minutes to celebrate their entry into the Kingdom – not their entry into the “4 walls” – and then quickly sending them into the mission field?  These new Christians are insiders now, much like employees ready to be trained and sent out to pursue the real “customers”.  New Christians should be challenged with the Great Commission on day 1, with in depth training kicking in on day 2 – striking while the iron is hottest.  They should be given simple instructions – the same Jesus gave His disciples – to preach the gospel and demonstrate love and compassion by the power of the Holy Spirit so people will listen.  To continue catering beyond conversion is a disservice to new Christians and to the Kingdom.

It’s your turn…

How can churches ensure more seekers make the full transition from “customers” to converts and then from new Christians to not only disciples, but disciple makers?   Does your church cater too far into that cycle, failing to challenge soon enough in the process to mobilize raving fans?

A Reminder, a Preview and a Big Idea

Jan 13, 16
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Blog Post 29 - Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months1

1.  A Reminder

Dear Pastors, Staff and Church Members:

Read our newly released eBook, Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months.  It’s short, but contains a powerful plan of action for revitalizing your church from the outside in!

Click here to download:

Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months

2.  A Preview

Hard to believe but our blog series is now in its 30th week:

  • First 10 – Built the case for why the Church in America is declining in size, impact, influence and perception
  • Next 10 –  Outlined some critical high-level principles that will bring your church into alignment with Biblical mandates and organizational behavior best practices
  • Last 10 –  Got our hands dirty in specific steps to truly become a church where the “members are the church and the community is the customer”

Going forward our plan is to:

  • address a few additional recommendations
  • revisit some of our prior arguments and strengthen the case for how the church has redefined its “customer”
  • begin to include videos in blog posts and launch a podcast providing coaching for you and your church

3.  A Big Idea

People are naturally inclined to put concepts into a box.  Smoke comes out of our ears if we can’t quickly process, categorize, accept or reject what we hear and read.  Even rejection is a “box” of sorts – the waste basket.

On this blog, we’ve run many important ideas by you.  We’re excited that the response has been so overwhelmingly positive – seems like no one is throwing our ideas into the proverbial “circular file”!

While diverse, all of those ideas center around a core contention – that the temptation is extremely strong today (and nearly all churches have succumbed at some level) to treat members as “customers” and largely ignore their intended customers, the community where the church was planted.  Of course, neglecting customers or focusing on the wrong ones doesn’t bode well for any organization, explaining the Church’s decline.

We’ve about to delve into another key idea that spins off of our core contention.  In these next few weeks, we’ll discuss “seekers” and “seeker” churches, evaluating them in the context of the prevailing “customer” definition.  My concern on this topic is that too many of our readers and presentation attendees see this blog as an indictment of “seeker” churches – they put our ideas into a “box”.  However, when 93% of churches aren’t growing, the issues we’re discussing extend to a much broader audience.  In fact, our take on “seeker” churches will surprise you – we have absolutely no qualms with them.  They play a critical role in the Kingdom landscape, but they’re not the whole answer…

It’s your turn…

What’s your feedback on Transform Your Community Forever in 6 Months?  The title sounds ambitious but after reading the eBook do you see how your church could potentially have that degree of impact?