What Do the Unchurched Want?

George Barna was asked the following question: If you were pastor of a typical church today, what practical things might you do to reach those outside? His response:

1. First, I’d make sure everyone in the body knew that evangelism without discipleship is spiritual abuse. We have so many people who work hard to get people saved, then abandon those individuals the moment they’ve said the magic words.

2. Second, I’d gear our worship services exclusively to those who truly love Christ. If an unchurched person wanders in, that’s fine, but if they did, I’d want them to be blown away by the presence of God, the commitment of the people to that presence, by the robustness of the worship, and by the sincerity of the congregation regarding knowing God ever more deeply. The goal of worship is worship, not evangelism.

3. Third, I’d shift the strategy from training people in the steps we think will lead people to Christ to empowering people to just be real. Nonbelievers are more impressed by a good friend who genuinely loves Jesus and lives accordingly than by a well-intentioned debater who wants to argue everyone into the kingdom.

4. Fourth, as part of that strategy I’d invest heavily in developing the worldview of the believers. Because people find Christ through relationships, not the impartation of information about Christ, it’s important that believers understand how to see the world through a lens of faith and know how to communicate their faith in relation to every life circumstance, without harassing or degrading people. Know what you believe and why, and be able to relate it to every circumstance, which allows you to talk to people about their experiences and hopes without feeling as if you have to persuade them to adopt your point of view. Besides, it’s the Holy Spirit that convicts and converts people, not us.

5. Fifth, I’d focus the majority of our outreach resources on children, not adults. Few adults get converted. The vast majority of people who ever embrace Christ do so when they’re young usually before they hit the teen years. Every adult who’s interested in doing meaningful ministry would be encouraged to find a way to serve the kids in the church and community. And I’d do whatever we could to empower the kids to share their faith with their family and friends.

– From What Do the Unchurched Want? in Rev!, July/August 2006

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Disciple-Making Pastor, Part 3

The Conflict Regarding Disciple Making and Churches:

The characteristics of disciple making are intentional, measurable, clearly communicated ministry.

Liberal Church:
This generally came out of the breakdown of absolute truth rooted in Scripture. It wanted to change the world through social action without much of a call toward salvation of the people in society.

Misconceptions About Discipleship:
It’s more than a trendy evangelical term, or getting serious about Christ, or mastering certain basics in Christianity, or skills training, program participation.

Weak Non-Professional Leadership:
Leadership from the marketplace is needed to make an impact in that marketplace, making changes in their circles of influence.

Churches Have Not Taken Seriously the Great Commission:
Perhaps the average church member has not been taught that the Great Commission is for all people, not just the church in general.

Accommodation to Culture:
This is the belief system of society, through media and the mind, morality, secular methodologies, superficial Christianity.

Disciple-Making Pastor, Part 2

The Need for Disciple Making Pastors:

Elton Trueblood stated that perhaps the single weakness of the contemporary Christian church is that millions of supposed members are not really involved at all and, what is worse, do not think it strange that they are not. Christ’s intention is to form a militant company to carry out the Great Commission. There is no real victory in a campaign if ninety percent of the soldiers are untrained and uninvolved, but that is exactly what we have now.

Most churches are growing by transfer, sort of a rotation of the saints. Relationships between clergy and laity have become professional performers and audience. Trueblood also stated that cheap Christianity can pull together a pretty good audience.

George Barna has stated that there is not too much difference between the beliefs of Christians and non-Christians. The fact is that the proportion of Christians who affirm these values is equivalent to the proportion of non-Christians who hold similar views indicates how meaningless Christianity has been in the lives of millions of professed believers.

Sunday School Growth

Josh Hunt is a church and Sunday School growth consultant based in New Mexico (www.joshhunt.com). He recently wrote an article in which he asked whether there is a place for the “normal” church. In a landscape populated by the purpose driven, missional, seeker-driven, or church du jour, can the “normal” church still be used by God? His conclusion, “Yes, if …..” church leaders give attention to some of the basics.

Here is the gist of the ten items Josh listed:

  1. Study your church. Know your people.
  2. Improve the music. More than the style of the music, the question is, “Is it any good?”
  3. Improve the preaching and teaching. Josh notes, “The number one predictor of the growth of any church is the preaching ability of the pastor.” He goes on to suggest, “The best way for a pastor to improve his preaching is for him to teach his Sunday school teachers how to communicate. You work on improving their communication skills and everyone improves.”
  4. Train the workers. People make growth strategies work! Train them and give them experience in teaching skills, leadership skills, people skills, evangelism and growth skills, and spiritual development.
  5. Preach a gospel of joy and grace. I love the way Josh put it: “The gospel is a gospel of good news. It is a message of joy and grace that God loves us and will forgive us of all of our sins. He will give us a life of meaning and purpose. He will show us, through His word, how to live the best life possible in an often inhospitable world. Being in several hundred churches has taught me that the theology in growing churches is often different from the theology in non-growing churches. Growing churches preach grace with a smile. Declining churches teach grace with a scowl. There is a difference.
  6. Model and vision cast of growth. Want to grow your Bible study groups? Then do more than just encourage others; get personally involved.
  7. Take care of the visitors. Beyond the simple matter of a good first impression when they arrive at your church, see that they’re invited to lunch or a Sunday School class gathering. Invest in the relationship.
  8. Take care of the details. Again, Josh puts it so succinctly: “It matters that your nursery doesn’t smell like a dirty diaper. It matters that the words are speled wright in teh buliten. It matters that the soloist sings on key.”
  9. Go after kids. God still works salvation miracles with adults. But, the number of people who come to Christ after their teenage years is small when compared with those reached when they are younger.
  10. Love God; love people. “Don’t get so focused on getting church right that you fail to keep your relationship with God right.”

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Simple Church, Part 6

Simple Church: Return to God’s Process for Making Disciples
(Rainer and Geiger)

This is a very easy to read and understand assessment of the church in America. The authors provide research to support the assertion that church in America has become complex; leaving a simple strategy that attracts people and moves them into deeper levels of commitment to Christ and the community.

“Art is a process of elimination. The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed.” — Elbert Hubbard (Focus)

We must shy away from our culture of super-size me and stick to what fits the process. More and bigger programs do not bring spiritual health. Remember Curly, on City Slickers? He would hold out his bony finger and say there was really only one thing… and if I remember, he died before he told them! David longed for one thing (Psalm 27:4); Paul longed for one thing (Philippians 3:13-14); Timothy was to focus on one thing (1 Timothy 4:7-8); even the writer of Hebrews wants us to focus on one thing (Hebrews 12:1-2). We are focus as a builder:

This is difficult since churches are like pack-rats, surrounded by clutter. Churches that eliminate clutter in programming are more focused on what they are to do.

  1. Going Google – streamline and keep it simple.
  2. Stewardship – don’t just spend, but invest. Every program is an investment in the process. Be wise in use of time and money.

Limit adding:
Use existing weekly programs for special emphases/initiatives instead of adding new programs. Less is more. Choose new options rather than adding new programs.

Reduce special events:
Don’t ride a fence, you must be focused. Perhaps it is time to pull out the knife. If special events are always publicized, the essential programs that move people through the process are not emphasized. These other events will complete with the essential programs for the time of the people. Funnel the special events into existing programs. Special events must be used strategically.

Easily communicated:
If you want people to understand why you are so passionate about your ministry process, you must be able to communicate it with ease.

Simple to understand:
Saying “no” is easier to accept when there is reasoning behind it. When people are committed to the process, they will be more likely to embrace the decisions that accompany such focus. Be brief and choose simple language.