I have a friend who moved to Texas to become the pastor of a Cowboy Church. At the time, I had never heard of a Cowboy Church. I was also, as far as I can remember, completely unaware that there were Hip Hop Churches, Heavy Metal Churches, and other such sub-culture specific churches. I asked him what Cowboy Church was about, and he said that the intent was to reach cowboys for Jesus. I like the idea of reaching cowboys for Jesus, but something about having a “Cowboy Church” unsettled me. It still does.
Imagine if a church wanted to be a “Mostly Middle Class White People Church.” They could easily look around their mostly white people town, realize that many middle-class white folks aren’t ‘churched’, and they could market to them. They could make up a mail out that said, “Are you uncomfortable with a lot of jumping around in the church? Do you get nervous lifting your hand to praise and worship music? Do you want an organized nursery that is very sanitized and clean? Do you prefer to dress business casual? Would you like to worship God to music that you hear on K-Love? If so, Mostly Middle Class White People Church could be for you!”
I know that sounds absurd, but how is that any different than taking a look at demographics and then marketing a church to appeal to that niche? I’m not saying that no research should be done regarding the community a church is in; I’m trying to argue that the “market” for the gospel is every tongue, tribe, and nation. Shouldn’t we be active in making the church ‘marketable’ to everyone?
I think marketing church to sub-cultures is a bad, unbiblical idea. How can a Cowboy Church go and plant a church on the Reservation? I fear individuals risk spiritual stagnation by only being around people who look like them, sing the same songs as them, and live the same life as them. Imagine this: What if, in Alabama, Mostly White Middle-Class Churches decided to try and incorporate more Hispanics instead of planting Hispanic Churches as separate entities? That would have meant work. They’d need translators, English classes, bigger nurseries, and a more diverse Sunday liturgy with regards to their worship music. But imagine the awesome pot lucks! And imagine an Alabama filled with middle class white Christians who had grown attached to their Hispanic neighbor. Not simply in a “that’s my neighbor” kind of way, but in a, “that’s my brother and I love him” kind of way. Imagine them, as brothers and sisters, working together to figure out a way to get a legitimate green card. Would we be in the mess we are in today? Wouldn’t that combination of cultures reflect more accurately what the church is supposed to look like?