Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The More People You Reach The More Likely It Is That You're Reaching The Wrong People

Who vs. how many.
*from Seth Godin's blog today

Seth Godin is one of my morning ritual blog reads each day. His insights into guerilla marketing, the cult of advertising, the change in the wind, and uncommon sense keep me grounded and help me realize that much of what I have suspected about our society, our christian sub-culture and our churches is evidenced in the very fabric of our society as a whole.

In short, the Church has become "of the world but not in it". As Christians we are more a product of our culture than agents of change within this culture.

Seth's quote today underscores the problem we've adopted from taking our cues from Big Business leaders rather than from our founder (Jesus).

Jesus is always attracting a crowd and then doing all he can to either thin the crowd or to escape them and find real followers in another town.

Jesus wants followers, not spectators. Jesus wants disciples, not believers. Jesus wants people who will put his words into practice, not people who will memorize those words and repeat them behind closed doors to others who already know the message.

Christian leaders in the 20th, and now the 21st, Century were enamored by the "Bigger is Better" approach to ministry. Putting more butts in the seats equated with success. Growth became the new Holy Grail of ministers across the fruited plane, and the size of your congregation became the new yardstick of a healthy church.

As our focus turned to attracting crowds we soon learned to identify the myriad challenges associated with putting butts into our seats. Eventually we surrendered our pulpits to a Gospel of positive thinking and reduced the dangerous words of Jesus to self-help rhetoric for improving your lifestyle and personal happiness.

As our Churches focused on getting more, our people began to pick up on the message and began to pursue getting more too. Soon televangelists emerged to offer up what our itching ears wanted to hear about how Jesus wants us to be rich and have all we want because we are, after all, "King's Kids".

What gives me hope these days is the fact that twenty or thirty individuals have emerged from the shadows over the last few years to email me and share with me their unrest at this State of the Modern Church in America. They have walked away from the private club mentality of Traditional Church and embraced a pioneer calling to go outside the four walls of Christendom and discover that being the Church is far more important than attending one.

You don't know their names. You won't find their books at the local Christian Bookstore. They will never grow famous and the churches they've planted will never advertise on Christian Radio or on the local billboards near the freeway. Yet in the Spirit, these unknown followers of Jesus are slowly being joined by hundreds and hundreds of others around this Nation, yes even around the World, as the Holy Spirit begins to call them out of the "Pattern of Church" and into the freedom of "Being Church" with others in their living rooms, in parks, in coffee shops, in lunch rooms, and anywhere God calls them to live out the Gospel...which is everywhere.

Jesus wasn't interested in the large crowd, he was always interested in the one person who the crowd pushed aside. He sought out the woman with the issue of blood. He singled out Zacheus and escaped the crowd by joining him for dinner in his home. Jesus gave us a fine example to follow, and the Disciples followed through when they planted hundreds of simple, house churches across Jerusalem, Judea, Corinth and beyond.

The early church grew one person, one family, at a time. They valued each person for who they were. They ate together. They shared everything with one another. The loved one another. Growth wasn't their goal, it was love. And yet, growth was the natural by-product of this love and simple obedience.

For 300 years the Church practiced being family throughout the known world. In spite of persecution, secret meetings, lack of evangelistic crusades, absence of witnessing tracts and zero marketing the early church grew from 25,000 in AD 100 to about 20,000,000 by AD 310.

While our Churches have focused on becoming Bigger over the last several years, they've ironically become more empty at the same time. In a crowd of hundreds of worshippers, many are feeling isolated, ignored and forgotten.

We've grown larger Churches where many feel anonymous and lonely. We call ourselves a family but no one knows our name. We call each other "Brother" and "Sister" in Christ, but we have no one to share our pain with.

Last Sunday our house church, "The Mission", celebrated our two year anniversary. If I've learned anything over the last two years it's that everyone matters. The definition of "Church" is simply the people of God plus the Holy Spirit and time to listen to one another and share all that we have.

Let's go and "Be the Church" now. However you meet. Wherever you gather. Let us not forsake the calling we have to live out the Gospel in our daily lives.

"To get something you've never had before you will have to do something you have never done before." I'm not sure who said that, but I know it is true. If we expect to experience Church in a different way, I am convinced that we will have to do (and be) Church in a different way too.


Seth Godin's blog entry is here:



Anonymous said...

The "wrong" people? Are there really wrong people?

If there are...will they not eventually grow and become the "right" people?

Keith Giles said...

The headline was written by Seth Godin and I took it straight from his blog.

Honestly I don't intend to say that the Church is after the "Wrong People" because, as you point out, there are no "Wrong People"...but the quest for "More" in our American Church culture has blinded us to the least and the outcast.

That was what resonated with me in the headline and comment by Seth Godin.

thanks for the comment.