This should be mildly depressing to every pastor or concerned Christian reading this right now. As much as we focus on growing our churches, as much as we try to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), we get little to no support from the very community we’re trying to reach. Think about it: how concerned are you that a local business the next town over that you’ve never frequented achieves success?
As a pastor I rarely take Sundays off, which means I rarely see a world outside of church on the weekends. On the few occasions I get outside the church building, I’m continually amazed at how many people don’t go to church and how little people seemed to be concerned with church. If we truly understood how little lost people were concerned with helping our churches grow, I believe it would radically impact how we tried to reach the community around us.
Here’s what many churches try and do to reach the community (since their worship services are generally ineffective and insider focused): special events. Host a concert, have an egg hunt, conduct a VBS. The problem with an event-driven outreach program is that they’re generally ineffective for the amount of resources and man-hours it takes to pull them off. You’ll see tons of guests, who not surprisingly won’t make the jump from a special event to your weekend services. They came for the event, not necessarily to connect with your church. An event-driven outreach model won’t see the sustained church growth you desire.
A much simpler outreach model (although much less biblical) is to steal sheep. If your church can ‘outchurch’ the other churches in the area, then your church will grow, but not through conversion. Some churches grow simply because they’ve figured out how to be the best at reaching churched people, so the already converted flock to it, giving the illusion of growth. Churches should obviously do everything they can with excellence, but we’re called to reach the lost, not just better entertain the already found.
Another option is to simply give up on reaching the lost. This is where convenient theology comes in handy, where we construct a theological framework and belief system to justify the fact that we are not in fact making disciples of all nations. Again this isn’t a biblical approach, but it assuages the guilt of many Christians who have simply given up on trying to reach the lost.
So what’s the answer? There has to be a better way. Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll lay out four things every lost person wants and how your church can meet those needs.