The Importance of Movement in Your Ministry

Movement is the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment. Movement is about flow. It is about assimilation.

Movement is what causes a person to go to the next step.

Movement is the most difficult simple church element to understand; therefore, an illustration is in order.

In a relay race the most important part of the race are the handoffs. Four runners are on the same team, and each runner’s speed is crucial but not nearly as crucial as the handoffs. Relay races are won or lost at the handoffs.

Sometimes the teams with the best runners lose, and teams with the best handoffs win. You have seen it. A team is out in the lead, and then someone drops the baton during a handoff. And the team loses.

The handoffs are that important.

Movement is about the handoffs. Movement is what happens in between the programs. Movement is how someone is handed off from one level of commitment to a greater level of commitment. How a church moves someone from a worship service to a small group is movement. How a church is designed to move a person from being an observer to being a contributor is movement.

Sadly, most churches are like poor relay teams. Instead of caring about the handoffs, they are preoccupied with the programs. They pay little attention to how people are moved to greater levels of commitment. They ignore what happens between the programs.

Simple churches pay attention to the handoffs. They have grasped the truth that assimilation effectiveness is more important than programmatic effectiveness. They know that as the flow of a process increases, so does the potential that people will progress through it. Simple church leaders design a ministry process where the programs are placed as tools along the process.

Vibrant churches have a simple process that produces movement, a process that facilitates the handoffs. The programs in these churches are tools used to promote movement. The leaders focus on what happens in between the programs as much as they do the programs.

Research confirms that movement is an essential design element in a simple church. According to the data, vibrant and growing churches have already recognized the importance of movement.

Winning teams excel in the handoffs, and so do simple churches. They are experts in designing a simple process that produces movement.

To implement the movement element, church leaders must take a fresh look at the weekly church calendar and the regularly scheduled programs. All programs must be placed in sequential order along the ministry process. This is what creates movement in a ministry process.

Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Can You Handle the Truth? 3 Reasons Your Guests Aren’t Returning

All pastors know the feeling. A new couple visits on a Sunday morning. Maybe they just moved to the area and they are looking for a church, or a friend invited them, or they decided to give church a try. They seem really sharp, exactly the demographic you are trying to reach. You have a great conversation in the lobby. They promise to be back next week, but they’re not. They never come back.

Another family comes three weeks in a row. Each weekend you see them in the lobby after church and it seems like they are really connecting. They miss the fourth week, but they’re back on the fifth. And then they never come back.

What happened? Why didn’t these families connect? Why do so many people flow through your church without sticking? You’ve read the books, been to the conferences and tried everything you can think of, but the back door of your church is always wide open. What is going on?

While I haven’t been to your church, or if I have let’s pretend I haven’t, I have visited scores of church across the country and I know why many people don’t stick. Sometimes the music is really bad or the preaching is really boring or the children’s ministry is really awful, but there are other, less obvious, reasons people don’t return:

1. Your church is a Members Only club

I can hear your reaction from here, “Not us! We work very hard to be inclusive. We go out of our way to welcome visitors; we even invite them to a monthly reception to show them how welcome they are. Swing and a miss on this one, cheesy boy.” (I don’t know why you are calling me “cheesy boy”, but I could use a nice slab of sharp cheddar about now)

Actually the more you think you’re not a members only club the more likely you are. Guests are just that, guests. They are welcome to watch and even participate, but they are not a part of the club. Walking into the church is like walking around in a foreign country. There are signs with clever labels like “Treasure Cove”, “Warehouse” and “Waves” that mean absolutely nothing to the outsider. Your announcements are laced with insider language about ministries and programs that everyone, wink-wink-nod-nod, already knows about. Sermons are filled with inside jokes and references to individuals that an outsider knows nothing about. You even have special shirts and name badges to clearly delineate who belongs and who does not.

The effort required to learn your language, understand your references and get to know your members is just too challenging for the new attender, so they don’t come back. You don’t mean to be a members only club, you just are.

2. Your church doesn’t care about details

The first time attender showed up a few minutes after your website said your services start because they wanted to sneak in the back, but when they arrived the band wasn’t even on stage. The auditorium was almost empty when they sat down, which made it easy for the pastor to find them. He explained that the congregation is notoriously late, but the service will start in a few minutes.

During service the guest noticed that the words were wrong on some of the slides, and there were several typos in the bulletin. On they way out to the car they noticed the pile of junk on a table in the corner, seemingly the same pile of junk that was there when they visited last Christmas. In the parking lot the overgrown flower beds seemed to emphasize the message, “We do the least we can.”

The new attender can’t help but wonder why the church leaders care so little about details. Maybe that’s the way they treat people as well? Its not really worth the effort to find out.

3. Your church is full

There may be room in the parking lot and the auditorium, but everything else is full. Your small groups are closed, but you have new ones starting the fall if the new attender wants to come back in a few weeks. Your ministry teams are full unless the new attender wants to wipe babies butts, in that case there’s an opening today. Your leader’s slate of relationships is full; they’ll meet with the new attender, but they reached their quota of friends a few months ago. There’s a place to park and a place to sit, but there’s really no place to belong.

This is confusing and a little embarrassing for the new attender. At least when hotels are full they put out a no vacancy sign; your church talks like they have plenty of room even though every available slot, or at least desirable slot, is full. Maybe they’d be better off sticking with meetup.com to find new connections, there’s always room there.

Have you ever visited a church and then didn’t go back? What are top two or three reasons you didn’t return?

Read more from Geoff here.


 

 

Want to know more about Guest Experiences in your church? Start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Surratt

Geoff Surratt

Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Sherry (CEO of MOPS International). Geoff and Sherry have two awesome kids (Mike and Brittainy), a wonderful daughter-in-law (Hilary) and the most beautiful granddaughter on earth (Maggie Claire) Geoff has served on staff at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church. He is now the Director of Exponential and a freelance Church Catalyst and Encourager.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Dennis — 05/22/16 9:22 am

Church is to bring in the lost, to save souls. If you're a believer and come to a church to seek what it can do for you, instead of what you can do for the church, then your in it to be served and not to serve. It's not about you and what you want, it's about the Kingdom and glorifying God. Do your part to help not to run because you don't feel good about the church. True Christians seek God in Spirit and in Truth, all others are seeking a savior and need help getting to there destiny. Help to do the vision, not criticise others for not doing it the way you want. We are one body with different parts moving towards the same purpose. Salvation!!

Sean — 09/21/15 7:55 am

The main reason i don't return is because the preacher didn't prepare, or maybe he just isn't a good preacher. Sometimes it's because they are too fluffy with their beliefs, "God aint mad at you" and every body is tip toeing through the tulips.

John Crossman — 01/25/15 7:24 am

The main reason why I believe someone does not come back is a lack of follow up by the church. It is odd to me but the majority of the time that we have visited a church, there has been no follow up. Even more concerning, we have never seen a pastor follow up. My advice to churches is to have a pastor follow up with every visitor and then Shepard them based on their need which could include helping to connect them to another church.

Paul — 01/09/15 12:02 pm

#3 seems to be quite common around me. They don't have room for me to get involved in anything, but they sure manage to send out multiple requests for my money every month.

Martha Roberts — 01/03/15 7:32 am

It seems like everyone's standards are pretty high. I would think that if people are going to give a church only one try to come up to their standards, they may never find a church home. I remember several years ago we had two or three groups of new people who complained that we did not sing the hymns that they were used to. So we added some of the hymns they suggested, but they left anyway. Maybe new people could try appreciating what they find when they go o a new church, instead of setting their standards so high that few churches can meet them. I have not had reason to look for a new church for many years, although I visit other churches on occasion. Maybe that new church that doesn't measure up to your standards has something different and special to offer that will enrich your lives. And what is awful music? I think that my church has terrific music, but if someone new comes and doesn't like it, then it becomes awful music. I guess I feel that instead of looking for the perfect church, people might go with the attitude that they will become part of the community and offer something to the life of the church. It's a two-way proposition.

Shay Wallace — 04/07/14 12:59 pm

It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.

Dave Alan — 04/07/14 8:19 am

"You even have special shirts and name badges to clearly delineate who belongs and who does not." Now a short while back I was told by some of you growth gurus that we needed name tags and same colored polos so people would know who to ask directions or other info from. Which is it?

Dan — 03/06/14 10:21 am

Personally I think that a major part of the problem, and this becoming more transparent today, is this assumption and assertion that church is about emotionalism. Why make the assumption in this article that a church has a "band"? Some churches still embrace a certain level of reverence and respect -- they attempt to make church something different, something more transcendent than day to day car radio, night club, social media environment. First church is NOT just an emotional time where people come together like-mindedly and feel good about themselves. You see, our culture is so lost and so desperate for something that the people will fill that emptiness with anything that gives them a high, even if its only temporary. Is that what church is meant to be? Is it a drug, given in the name of God? Come together, have some coffee and rolls and sing songs that temporarily fill a void? I don't think so. Second, what church should be offering is the Word of God! The main focus in worship is the teaching - the faith - the confession - the meditation - the prayer - the day-to-day LIFE of God's people sort of summed up in an hour and a half. I mean if God's children are supposed to be running around with their hands in the air all day long singing "breathe" I guess it's one thing...but what are they learning from that? No. In church people must learn to repent, to believe in Christ as their salvation, to delve into the Word of God, to learn humility, to learn to be passive-receiving from God His gifts rather than thinking they must do something or sing louder or raise their hands higher to get them. They must learn about sin, and the effect of sin in their lives, so that they can truly rejoice and thank God for the wonderful gifts of salvation, grace, eternal life, and forgiveness of sins in a LIFELONG way and not as an emotional high. Church must be something different, something that goes BEYOND the culture and thus has the ability to reach INTO culture to get to the lost. Church must display the transcendence and the holiness of God, but it must also show the closeness and the intimacy of the Father shared in Christ. What church has become today is a business-show. It's not church but it's entertainment. It's like drinking the milk where God wants to get us to solid food. Yeah we don't want to become stagnant and hypocritical by following a bunch of rituals for rituals' sake, but we also don't want to abandon the ritual of the church in order to try to look like the culture around us. I like a lot of praise music, but sometimes I think it's an infiltration of culture and worldliness into the church (rather than the Church changing and leading culture). Thus when I choose praise music (or any music) for church, it must first and foremost TEACH THE FAITH, not just make people jump up and down, cry, and become emotional robots. While I agree with the premise of this article, I do NOT agree with the assumptions or the assertions. There are times when an organ and a hymn is far FAR better than a band where the musicians wear jeans and dress like they just came from a night club. I believe we should show some air of reverence when we are in the presence of God and when we are teaching the faith corporately.

Greg Balzer — 01/18/14 11:58 am

Certainly timeliness, cleanliness, and true hospitality are important, but for me these are not the decisive factors in finding a church home. These factors are frosting on the cake, and can be improved over time. What I want to find in a church is a pastor and membership focused upon loving God, and loving their neighbors (and visitors) as themselves. A church with a high view of God, a low view of man. A church truly transformed by God's spirit. Born from above and giving the credit to God. A church like this cannot help but grow.

Bob Cleveland — 01/09/14 12:33 pm

Ask yourself why the people who DO come back, do so. It'll probably have less to do with parking or seating or timing, than it does with something going on that draws them back.

Robert Huckleberry — 12/23/13 8:26 am

We visit many churches in the past due to our occupations, but now, settling down, I never thought we would have a problem of "finding a church home". First, it was apparent We simply have nothing in common, except, of course Jesus. I thought that would be enough. But, I was wrong. The cliques are strong and the singing/music is aweful. We tried for months to make it work, but when my wife started crying on the way to service, I caught myself saying "it isn't about the worship" its about plugging into the Body of Christ...it dawned on me, we had to go somewhere else. The second place we visited and left was also due to cliques, poor proper exegesis of Scripture and they had no idea of ther mission to their community. It was a pep-rally sermon format with poor music, no discipleship and no room. The last place where we are currently attending has reduced us to Sunday morning only (SMO as they call it) due to the Bible studies being monopolized by a leader who approaches Scripture using propositions because they "think" or "feel" it should be so...again, no formal exegesis. I feel terible for even commenting like this, but, you asked. We've stopped looking elsewhere, and resigned ourselves to sit in the back and wait for openings.

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Why Failure to Live on Mission is a Worship Problem

Sometimes we think the way to engage people in mission is to make sure we get the right information to them.

  • If we just preach the Bible, people will evangelize.
  • If we show people the commands in Scripture to care for the poor, people will develop a heart for mercy ministry.
  • If we make people aware of our need for more volunteers, people will sign up.

In other words, we perceive a knowledge problem. People need to know how to apply the Scriptures better, and once they know what they need to do, they’ll do it.

Not So Fast

But this isn’t the way long-term change takes place. Most of the time, when we are marked by missional apathy, it’s not that we don’t know what we ought to be doing; it’s that we don’t want to be doing what we ought to be doing.

In our efforts to increase missional fervor, we can get so focused on giving people more information, or better application, that we forget that our main task is to lead people to exultation. That’s a fancy word for “worship.” We exult, we delight in the Savior, we revel in him. Exaltation of the Savior leads to exultation of the saints.

Lack of mission is rarely a knowledge problem; it’s a worship problem. We don’t have any trouble talking about the things we love most. Whenever we find something worthy of attention, we talk about it.

The same is true of our relationship with Christ. The more we are in awe of his worthiness, the more likely we are to speak of him to others and serve others in his name.

Weighty Truths and Heartfelt Worship

Sometimes people worry that the rough edges of Christianity will lead us to avoid serving our neighbor and sharing the gospel. So we play down some of the harder truths of the gospel, not denying them of course, but not giving them their proper weight.

The reality of hell is an example. There are all sorts of ways to downplay the truth of one’s eternal destiny; the most common is simply to not speak of it, or to recast salvation as dealing more with this life than the next.

But what happens when the reality of hell is no longer grounding our talk about salvation and the gospel? We miss out on a moment of worship.

What Makes Us Marvel More

Consider this scenario. You’re walking with a friend, not paying much attention to where you are headed. Suddenly, your friend grabs your arm and yanks you backwards. At first, you are annoyed that you’ve been stopped so suddenly. But then your friend points in front of you. Sure enough, he had a reason. You were about to step off into a ditch, where you might have broken your foot or sprained your ankle. Your annoyance turns to gratitude for his “saving you” from possible harm. You thank your friend and move on.

Consider the same scenario, except this time your friend doesn’t pull you back from a ditch, but a cliff. You were about to fall to your death, hundreds of feet below. What would your reaction be in this situation? Not just a word of “thanks.” You’d be crying and hugging your friend, overflowing with gratitude for the way he just saved your life.

In the same way, when we minimize the severity of God’s judgment for sin, we are less inclined to stand in awe of the marvelous salvation Christ has provided for us. We think we’re pushing aside an obstacle when we neglect the reality of judgment. But what we’re actually doing is pushing away one of the truths that most leads us to worship. The reality of God’s grace is all the more amazing the more we see our sin and what it deserves.

Feel the Truth

A gospel-centered teacher isn’t satisfied to see his people learn truths about God. A gospel-centered leader wants them to feel those truths. To feel the full weight of God’s provision for us in Christ. To have the heart’s affections stirred to worship the loving God who has saved us by his grace and incorporated us into his family.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Debbie Ash — 01/24/15 11:58 am

I am so glad to have come across your message -- this is sobering and good. Thank you!

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Preaching and the Expectation to be Fed: Moving Past Self-Feeding to the Heart of the Issue

Once upon a time, there was a land filled with banquet halls. Each banquet hall was different, but one thing they all had in common was that the manager of each hall would invite all the people in the area to come to a banquet each weekend.

“Everyone should attend a banquet each week,” the managers would say. “People are starving out there and they don’t even know it. Invite them to our banquet hall so they can be fed.”

Eventually, some people began to abandon banquet halls, not because they didn’t want to eat, but because they discovered other ways to get a good meal.

The managers would say, “There’s so much more to the banquet hall than just the weekend meal, though. It’s not about whether or not you get fed each weekend. It’s about living and eating healthy all the time.”

And then the former banquet goers replied, “If the banquet hall isn’t all about the meal each weekend, why do you only seem to talk about the weekend menu? Why is the whole banquet hall organized around the meal?”

People will expect to be fed as long as we continue to make dinner the main focus.

——-

We have chosen a specific model for “doing church.” Our weekly rhythm, our staffing, our facilities, our communication materials, and our programs all sound a single message: the sermon is what matters most.

We promote our next sermon series as the reason for people to come back or the reason for our regular attenders to invite friends. We place a unique sermon series graphic on the cover of the weekend bulletin and project it onto the large screens in our sanctuaries. We devote more than 50% of our weekend services to the sermon. Many times, the songs we sing are selected because of their connection to the sermon.

And then, we seem surprised when people choose a church based on the quality of the preaching. “People need to feed themselves!” That’s true. They do. But we shouldn’t be surprised that people expect to get something out of the sermon when we structure all of our activities around it. If we don’t expect them to get something out of it … maybe we should stop treating it as the most important thing.

If church is more about fellowship, or serving our community, or growing together spiritually in small groups (“because that’s the best environment for real growth” we say), we should structure our activities around that. Let’s shape everything we do around the thing that’s most important (if it’s not really the sermon). Or, if we think a combination of those things are necessary, then treat them all as necessary, including the sermon.

We can’t let ourselves off the hook by calling people to feed themselves when we’re providing a meal every week. Instead, let’s take the responsibility to make the meal something good, something that satisfies, something meaningful.

No matter what we do, let’s be aware of—and take responsibility for—the model we’ve chosen and everything that goes with it.

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mr. Steven Finkill — 04/07/14 12:58 pm

That's exactly what I was thinking, Joel. The sermon hasn't always been the central element of the weekly gathering of Christians throughout the centuries, but that's the model almost all of us subscribe to today. I'm not necessarily saying that the model should change, just that the expectation people have that they should "get something out of the message" comes from the fact that we've made it the central element of our gatherings.

Joel Sprenger — 04/07/14 12:28 pm

With apologies to Marshall McLuhan, whom I don't claim to understand, this article raises a 'the medium is the message' point. Something along the lines of 'by making the sermon the center of the service we are changing peoples perception of content of the medium (the sermon)'. Perhaps our concept Christianity is influence merely by making the sermon central versus for instance making the Eucharist central. Or perhaps I have no idea of what I'm talking about.

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Should I Go to Church in My Family Room? 6 Key Considerations

A point of clarity is in order. In this article I am referring to “the digital church” in a very specific way. I am not referring to the many uses of the Internet available to churches: church web sites; social media; and a plethora of training tools. Instead I use the phrase to refer to those churches that view a significant part of their constituencies to be online rather than in person.

The “digital church attendees” likely view the worship services online. They may be in some type of online small group. They have the ability to minister to others via the Internet. And they can support the church financially online as well.

Some churches now view these persons as integral participants in the life of the church. A small but growing number are willing to grant them membership. And many churches see the digital church attendees as an extension of the ministry of the church, even if they do not have full membership status.

This phenomenon is not transitory. It will be with us for the foreseeable future. As I speak with pastors and other church leaders across America and beyond, here are the key issues being discussed.

  1. There is a lively debate regarding the status of the digital church attendees. What are the ecclesiological implications of the digital church attendees? Are they really a part of the church? Is physical presence necessary to be connected with a church? Should they be granted membership? Should they participate in communion/Lord’s supper?
  2. Many churches are using a “both/and” approach to the digital church. They have worship services and small groups where people gather and meet in person. But they also have an extension of their ministry that includes the digital church attendees. Some church leaders have shared with me the particular effectiveness for homebound persons and military persons deployed around the world. Only a small number of churches today are digital churches only.
  3. The digital church movement is growing. My information at this point is anecdotal, but I hope to have some good data from LifeWay Research in the future. Still, I have little doubt that the movement is growing and will continue to grow.
  4. Church leaders are struggling to find meaningful metrics for the digital church. Do such metrics as pageviews or unique visitors have any meaning for the effectiveness of the ministry? Do donations from digital attendees have any implications for the health of the ministry? What metrics are possible and also meaningful?
  5. Many digital church attendees are faithful financial givers to the church. I’ve been somewhat surprised to hear from church leaders about the financial support the church receives from the digital attendees. From my conversations, I’ve learned that the financial support is proportionate to the effort the church expends in connecting to digital attendees.
  6. The digital church is rapidly evolving. In a few months, much less a few years, we will know more about the digital church. For now, we know it is both growing and changing. This movement, for better or worse, may be one of the most significant in churches across the world for years to come.

I know that many church leaders will be looking to this particular article to get insights from others. Please take a few minutes to share with the readership any insights, experiences, or opinions you have about the digital church. You readers are incredibly bright. I look forward to hearing from you.

Read more from Thom here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

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Robby — 04/13/14 6:49 pm

This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.

Gordon Marcy (@GordonMarcy) — 04/01/14 10:26 am

"I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." 1 Cor 9:22 I have not a shred of doubt that in the Digital Age this means some will become Internet pastors, worship leaders, spiritual coaches and volunteers to reach the lost, the helpless, the hurting, and the seeking online. All the major religions of the world are creating Internet platforms, many exhibiting a pioneering spirit and evangelistic fervor to establish influence with digital natives. It would be wrong to leave people [young people especially] in a doctrinal vacuum because of a debate about where "Church" can take place. I'm not suggesting that the church online should replace the physical church, rather it should be a fully resourced extension of it.

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Does Your Outside Space Reflect Your Inside Ministry?

These two pictures tell the tale of two shopping malls…

BR-VR011914

The mall at the top is pretty much just like the mall I grew up going to. At this mall you park as close to the entrance as you can, then go inside to find the store you are looking for and maybe stroll up and down the covered atrium. All of your favorite stores are facing and found inside. This particular mall has an Apple Store, but you have to know that ahead of time.

The shopping mall on the bottom is reflective of the new breed of malls that cropped up. In fact, they are not even called shopping malls anymore – they are “Lifestyle Centers.” The major difference here is that you park near the store you are going to, and maybe stroll up and down an outdoor promenade. All of the stores are facing outside. This mall has a PF Changs, it’s easily seen from the street.

Which of these two malls would you rather visit?

Which shopping experience is more engaging as you pass?

Does exterior presence (and life) really matter if the content is the same inside?

Actually, these two photos are of the same shopping mall in Akron, OH. Three to four years ago the mall developer added the exterior-focused retail stores to the front. In my estimation, as an attempt to draw more shoppers and respond to our experienced-based culture. Developers know this: people respond to the experience that appears to be more pleasant.

Many churches are more like the “other side” of the mall, a great experience inside, hidden by the lack of life outside.

What if the church turned the ministries inside out?

How could an engaging worship experience be seen from the street, if not literally?

Could an incredible Kid’s Ministry be known in the community, before anyone steps through the door?

What kind of movement and life can churches present, maybe even just by moving the greeting time outside?

What can you do THIS Sunday to bring the inside-out at your church? 

Read more from Bryan here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Your Church Missing an Opportunity to Connect People at Weekend Services? Learning from a Willow Creek Reboot

I sat in on a meeting at Willow Creek recently while Bill Hybels was casting some vision for the church’s new connection strategy…helping people find a place of friendship based on where they sit on weekends, then inviting them to connection events and gatherings.

It is not a new strategy; many of you have used this for decades with a twist or two in the method. And some of you will remember we taught this for years to group life to point leaders, encouraging them to “Leverage Your Auditorium” as a strategic step for connection.  But some churches are still missing an opportunity to connect people at weekend services.

While this remains an “attractional” strategy (connecting people who come to the campus versus going into the community), it is a ripe opportunity each church has to connect with people who are already sitting there.

As I listened to the talk (1 of 4 vision Bill is doing for core leader teams) I had a flashback to my arrival to Willow in 1992. We were laser-focused on making disciples as the central part of our mission at that time.  There was much fruit in those days that came from the hard work of hundreds of disciple-makers led by Mark Weinert, Don Cousins, Judson Poling, and many others using a group-based discipleship model. It was a whole-team effort with a clear strategy to support it.

Our challenge was how to get more people into the process and make group life more accessible for those who had trouble finding a group. So we focused on the one thing you absolutely must do in disciple-making: connection.  As we wrestled with the right wording for building a church filled with group life, our team leader asked: “What is our infinitive? To grow…to disciple…to reach…to develop? What is it? How will it be your mission focus? Because it will become the central purpose of our mission in the first phase.”

What is your infinitive? What a great question!

After much discussion we made a decision. Our infinitive would be…

“TO CONNECT.”

Why? Because you cannot make committed disciples without connection. You can certainly try. Especially if you have a definition of “connection” that is less than personal and relational. Yes, there are non-relational strategies used in closed or persecuted countries, but you can bet there is not one follower in these countries who thrives by being alone. Discipleship requires People-ship. (A word from the Donahue Lectionary of Community-building!).

Our mission for the group life ministry at Willow in 1992:

To connect people relationally in groups of 4-10 people for the purpose of growing in Christlikeness, loving one another, and contributing to the work of the church, in order to glorify God and make disciples of all nations.

I did not hunt through old folders to look that up. I did not need to…I have it memorized, ingrained in my head from the beginning. TO CONNECT.

If you do not connect people, you cannot disciple people. Period.

…and he chose the 12 that they might be WITH HIM and that he might send them out to preach… (Mark 3:14)

So today…21 years later…Willow Creek is re-focused on a workable connection strategy so that people who arrive unconnected can find a relationship. Such a strategy must be about more than just filling seats at services. There must be an overall disciple-making strategy, equipped leadership, empowered people based on gifts (not just ministry slots to fill on campus), and movement beyond a come-and-see outreach focus to a missional go-and-serve/love/gather strategy off-campus.

You need a comprehensive approach, and I can help you process that change if you want to chat about that.

Remember: You cannot stop at connection…but you cannot start without connection.

To reach out to the many disconnected, pass-through people (visiting a couple weeks and out the door a few weeks later), it will provide an essential first step along the path.

What are you doing to leverage your auditorium or worship center for connection? Do people feel welcome, known, and cared for during their weekend experience at a service?

Read more from Bill here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bill Donahue

Bill’s vision is: “Resourcing life-changing leaders for world-changing influence.” Leaders and their teams need a clear personal vision and a transformational team strategy. This requires work in 3 key areas: Maximize Leadership Capacity, Sharpen Mission Clarity & Build Transformational Community. Bill has leadership experience in both the for-profit and non-profit arena. After working for P&G in New York and PNC Corp. in Philadelphia, Bill was Director of Leader Development & Group Life for the Willow Creek Church & Association where he created leadership strategies and events for over 10,000 leaders on 6 continents in over 30 countries.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Preaching with Non-Believers in Mind: Learning from Andy Stanley and Tim Keller

Last year, I read Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend and Tim Keller’s Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City  back to back. An odd combination, I know.

These two pastors come from different contexts (Atlanta vs. New York) and different theological streams (Baptistic non-denominational vs. confessional Presbyterian). What’s more, they approach ministry from different starting points, then employ different methods to achieve their purposes.

Despite all these differences, there is one thing Stanley and Keller agree on: preachers ought to be mindful of the unbelievers in their congregation.

Different Reasons for the Same Practice

Stanley and Keller may be worlds apart in terms of their theological vision for ministry, but they both maintain that a preacher should consider the unsaved, unchurched people in attendance.

This doesn’t mean we can’t find differences even in this area. For example, Stanley uses the terminology of “churched” and “unchurched” (which makes sense in the South), whereas Keller’s context leads him to terms like “believers” and “non-believers.”

Likewise, Stanley and Keller engage in similar practices from different vantage points. Stanley’s purpose for the weekend service is to create an atmosphere unchurched people love to attend. Keller believes evangelism and edification go together because believers and unbelievers alike need the gospel. He writes:

“Don’t just preach to your congregation for spiritual growth, assuming that everyone in attendance is a Christian; and don’t just preach the gospel evangelistically, thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. Evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.”

Whether you are closer to Stanley’s paradigm for ministry or Keller’s, you can benefit from a few suggestions for how to engage the lost people listening to you preach.

1. Acknowledge and welcome the non-believers in attendance.

Both Stanley and Keller mention the non-believers who are present. They go beyond a vague, quick welcome at the beginning of the service. Instead, these two pastors acknowledge that even though the non-believers may be uncomfortable, the church members are glad they are present. Here’s the way Stanley does it:

“If you are here for the first time and you don’t consider yourself a religious person, we are so glad you are here. Hang around here long enough and you will discover we aren’t all that religious either.”

“If you don’t consider yourself a Christian, or maybe you aren’t sure, you could not have picked a better weekend to join us.”

“If this is your first time in church or your first time in a long time, and you feel a little uncomfortable, relax. We don’t want anything from you. But we do want something for you. We want you to know the peace that comes from making peace with your heavenly Father.

“If this is your first time in church, or your first time in a long time, and you feel out of place because you think we are all good people and you are not so good, you need to know you are surrounded by people who have out-sinned you ten to one. Don’t let all these pretty faces fool you.”

Keller lets this kind of acknowledgement seep into his sermon preparation. He recommends the pastor address different groups directly, “showing that you know they are there, as though you are dialoguing with them.” Here’s an example:

“If you are committed to Christ, you may be thinking this – but the text answers that fear…”

“If you are not a Christian or not sure what you believe, then you surely must think this is narrow-minded – but the text says this, which speaks to this very issue…”

2. Assume the non-believers in attendance need help in approaching the Bible. 

For Stanley, this means explaining how to follow along with the biblical text for the sermon. It also means you teach about the Bible as you teach the Bible.

Here’s an example. Instead of saying “The Bible says…,” cite the authors instead. This way, you are giving information about who wrote the books of the Bible.

  • Option 1 – The Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead after being in the tomb for three days.
  • Option 2 – Matthew, an ex-tax collector who became one of Jesus’ followers, writes that Jesus rose from the dead and he claimed to have seen him. Not only that, Luke, a doctor who interviewed eyewitnesses, came to the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead. He was so convinced he gave up his practice and became a church planter…

Option 2 is better because it doesn’t assume people know everything about the Bible. We should “always start on the bottom rung of the ladder.”

Likewise, Keller suggests pastors think carefully about the audience’s premises. He writes:

“Don’t assume, for example, that everyone listening trusts the Bible. So when you make a point from the Bible, it will help to show that some other trusted authority (such as empirical science) agrees with the Bible.”

While Keller’s approach is not fundamentally geared toward seekers, he still commends a seeker-comprehensible approach to worship that carefully explains the elements of the worship service.

  • Seek to worship and preach in the vernacular.
  • Explain the service as you go along.
  • Directly address and welcome nonbelievers.
  • Consider using highly skilled arts in worship.
  • Celebrate deeds of mercy and justice.
  • Present the sacraments so as to make the gospel clear.
  • Preach grace.

3. Challenge non-believers to engage the Bible by acknowledging the oddity of Christian belief and practice.

Keller believes that proper contextualization will cause the preacher to consider the way the message will fall on the ears of those in attendance. He writes:

“We must preach each passage with the particular objections of that people group firmly in mind.”

Hence, the use of “apologetic sidebars” in the sermon. Keller’s approach is to devote one of the three or four sermon points mainly to the doubts and concerns of nonbelievers.

Stanley makes a similar point:

“As a general rule, say what you suspect unbelievers are thinking. When you do, it gives you credibility. And it gives them space.”

When dealing with stringent moral commands in Scripture, Stanley will say things like:

“Today’s text may make you glad you aren’t a Christian! You may put it off indefinitely after today.”

He claims that whenever you give non-Christians an “out,” they often respond by leaning in.

Stanley uses humor as a way of disarming the audience and pushing them to engage the Bible on their own. In seeking to demolish their excuses, he will say things like, “You don’t have to believe it’s inspired to read it.” Or “You should read the Bible so you will have more moral authority when you tell people you don’t believe it.”

Likewise Keller recommends acknowledging common objections and treating the skeptics with dignity:

“Always show respect and empathy, even when you are challenging and critiquing, saying things such as, ‘I know many of you will find this disturbing.’ Show that you understand. Be the kind of person about whom people conclude that, even if they disagree with you, you are someone they can approach about such matters.”

4. Use cultural commonalities to point out worldview inconsistencies.

Keller recommends that all pastors look for two kinds of beliefs:

  • “A” beliefs – beliefs people already hold that, because of God’s common grace, roughly correspond to some parts of biblical teaching.
  • “B” beliefs – what may be called “defeater” beliefs – beliefs of the culture that lead listeners to find some Christian doctrines implausible or overtly offensive.

He explains why this is important:

One of the reasons we should take great care to affirm the “A” beliefs and doctrines is that they will become the premises, the jumping-off points, for challenging the culture… Our premises must be drawn wholly from the Bible, yet we will always find some things in a culture’s beliefs that are roughly true, things on which we can build our critique. We reveal inconsistencies in the cultural beliefs and assumptions about reality. With the authority of the Bible we allow one part of the culture – along with the Bible – to critique another part.

Conclusion

There’s no denying the significant differences between Andy Stanley and Tim Keller when it comes to theology and ministry. But we can learn from them both in how to respectfully engage the unsaved people in our midst. Keller is right:

We must avoid turning off listeners because we are cultural offensive rather than the gospel… On the other hand, our message and teaching must not eliminate the offense, the skandalon, of the cross. Proper contextualization means causing the right scandal – the one the gospel poses to all sinners – and removing all unnecessary ones.

Read more from Trevin here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Your Church’s Worship a Supernatural Encouragement?

Not only does our worship as rescued sinners reflect an eternal reality, God also supernaturally utilizes our corporate gatherings to mature and encourage His people in ways not available anywhere else. God designed our faith to be communal and interdependent—and markedly supernatural. When believers gather together as a worshipping community, we benefit from all the spiritual gifts of the body of Christ. Worship reminds us that the Church is bigger and more beautiful than any one person or a few leaders alone. Each of us, worshipping together, is used of God to build each other up in Jesus.

Notice the plural language throughout this passage from the writer of Hebrews.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:19–25 ESV)

“Let us draw near. . . . Let us hold fast. . . . Let us consider how to stir up one another . . . encouraging one another.” Worship brings us together and is infused with supernatural power through the “blood of Jesus” and the “new and living way” that He has given access for us to enjoy and experience in Him.

Worship gatherings are not always spectacular, but they are always supernatural. And if a church looks for or works for the spectacular, she may miss the supernatural. If a person enters a gathering to be wowed with something impressive, with a style that fits him just right, with an order of service and song selection designed just the right way, that person may miss the supernatural presence of God. Worship is supernatural whenever people come hungry to respond, react, and receive from God for who He is and what He has done. A church worshipping as a Creature of the Word doesn’t show up to perform or be entertained; she comes desperate and needy, thirsty for grace, receiving from the Lord and the body of Christ, and then gratefully receiving what she needs as she offers her praise—the only proper response to the God who saves us.

Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

A Renewed Vision of Worship Overcomes the Part-Time Churchgoer Syndrome

Geoff and Christine are thirty-something churchgoers who love Jesus and love their three kids. They consider themselves faithful members of New Life Community Church.

Their oldest is about to be in the youth group, and their youngest is finally out of diapers. Christine has been involved in the kids’ ministry through the years. Geoff is a deacon.

But they are part-timers when it comes to church attendance, and they never set out to be.

They are not alone.

Recent statistics show that an increasing number of evangelicals who are firm in their faith are flabby in their practice of actually gathering with their brothers and sisters in worship. It’s the part-time syndrome, and it can sneak up on any of us.

Let’s go back to Geoff and Christine. There are 52 Sundays a year, and last year, they attended a worship gathering on 28 of those Sundays. (That’s an average of about twice a month.) What happened?

  • Vacation: To maximize his allotted days, Geoff took the family to the mountains during the kids’ spring break, stretching over two weekends (one of which happened to be Easter!). There was the summer beach vacation, another stretch of a week and two weekends, and then a fall getaway. Total = 5 Sundays.
  • Sports: Their oldest son is on a travel soccer team. Many of the games are on weekends, and they believe it would be a better testimony to be among unbelievers on Sunday mornings rather than let down the team. Total = 9 Sundays.
  • Sickness: With their youngest child going to preschool, the family seems more susceptible to illnesses than before, and sickness always seems to hit on the weekends. Total = 3 Sundays.
  • Guest Preacher: When Pastor Jon is out of town, Geoff and Christine usually take the weekend off. They never like the guest speaker as much as Pastor Jon. Total = 3 Sundays.
  • Visiting In-Laws: Christine’s parents come twice a year to spend the weekend with the family. To maximize their time, they usually spend the weekends catching up and doing some shopping. Total = 2 Sundays.
  • Holiday: Thanksgiving weekend, and the week in between Christmas and New Year’s, the family is traveling. Total = 2 Sundays.

Geoff and Christine may be a fictional couple, but their situation is true for many of us. Recently, a church leader told me their most faithful attendees are only in church 2-3 times a month. They basically expect churchgoers to be “hit or miss” every week.

Danger #1 – Guilt You Into Going

Now, there are two wrong ways church leaders might address this issue. The first is to go all Hebrews 10 on everyone and emphasize the importance of the worship gathering, so as to whip people into shape and guilt them into church attendance. Sorry, but this isn’t a gospel-centered approach.

We should never take the command of Hebrews 10 about neglecting the church and isolate it from the preceding verses (about the privilege of coming before God in a community of faith that holds to a confession of hope). That’s giving the imperative (“Go to church!”) without the indicative (“You are welcomed into the throne room of grace with your family in Christ.”).

This approach also stresses church as a place we go, rather than church as the people with whom we gather. It reinforces the idea that the church is a building and leads people to think holiness happens by being present every week.

Lastly, this method could cause people to have a checklist mentality, where we pat themselves on the back for being in church 48 weeks a year, while neglecting other important matters – like justice and love. Churchgoing isn’t necessarily a sign of spiritual health. How many times do you think the Pharisees were absent from the temple?

Danger #2 – Avoid the Issue

The second danger is to be so concerned with the first that we fail to address the imperative in Hebrews 10 at all. In doing so, we ignore the importance of the church as the family of Christ, the people with whom we are to gather and hear the gospel.

Because of our strong distaste for legalistic checklists, we might minimize the counterfeit gods that creep into our lives and vie for our free time. In the desire to avoid legalism, we never mention that a ball can become a Ba’al for some, or that leisure and comfort can become idols that keep us from worshipping the true God with other believers.

In an effort to not guilt people into church attendance, we never make people aware of the fact that grace is presented week after week. Guilt is the result of not going to church – not because you feel bad for not living up to God’s expectations, but because you’re not hearing the message of gospel grace pounded into you week after week.

A renewed vision of worship

The best way to respond is not with guilt or with a false grace, but with the reminder of the purpose of worship. You aren’t there to fill up at the gas station (after all, you can get some sort of spiritual sustenance by reading or listening to your preacher’s podcasts apart from the body of Christ). This is a distorted view of the purpose of gathering.

The author of Hebrews clues us in. Being with your brothers and sisters is where you are able to stir one another up to love and good deeds. It’s the place where the confession of hope is celebrated and put before you and where you are urged to cling to it tightly.

It’s not just the content you receive every week that is so formative; it’s the act of being together and making the Lord’s family your priority. It’s similar to a family that gathers every evening for a meal. The value is not in the specifics of your conversation, but the very act of demonstrating your love for each other.

We don’t go to church because of guilt. We are the church because of grace.

That’s what Geoff and Christine, along with you and I, need to remember.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax

My name is Trevin Wax. I am a follower of Jesus Christ. My wife is Corina, and we have two children: Timothy (7) and Julia (3). Currently, I serve the church by working at LifeWay Christian Resources as managing editor of The Gospel Project, a gospel-centered small group curriculum for all ages that focuses on the grand narrative of Scripture. I have been blogging regularly at Kingdom People since October 2006. I frequently contribute articles to other publications, such as Christianity Today. I also enjoy traveling and speaking at different churches and conferences. My first book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, was published by Crossway Books in January 2010. (Click here for excerpts and more information.) My second book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope(Moody Publishers) was released in April 2011.

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COMMENTS

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Rosalie Garde — 09/15/13 10:40 pm

I can see your reasons for missing "church" are valid. Then there are a few more, parents of teens find the teens are harder to rouse, soon the parents decide between going without them or staying home with them. Then the midlife mom in peri-menopause or menopause is tired. Tired of raising children over 18 years, tired because of hormonal changes, tired because of age, and sleeping Sunday mornings is not only appealing, but something hard to avoid. Late mornings followed by meaningful coffee and breakfast with husband are a tempting choice over having to shower, do makeup, get dressed drive 10 or 20 minutes... The midlife husband is tired too--tired of working hard and being there for his family. Not having to rush to go somewhere Sunday morning is inviting too, especially since he rushed somewhere the other 6 days of the week and probably worked on his yard or did other chores Saturday. All these things aren't negative though, the only problem with these things is that their church only has 2 opportunities to attend - 8:30 or 10:30, Sunday mornings. There is no evening service any time of the week. Basically, if the parents or their teens miss "church", which is that 1-2 hour window of time ONLY, they've missed it entirely for that week. Pit that against 24 hour Walmart, or a chance to buy coffee or fast food at pretty much any time of day. The options are just not available. Perhaps the Catholics have something to glean from by their multiple mass times. Even for the families with children in sports it's the same story, often a one-shot make-it-or-break-it deal. Well, may be this is just one more excuse. I have no clue. I do know, a longtime Christian as I have been, never thought I'd see the day where I'd miss so much church without deep guilt as I might have in the past. We were in a church that tried a 1:00 Sunday service, and we got to every one for the 14-week trial period. Leisurely coffees and breakfasts were enjoyed, teens were up, and we got there on time. Then the trial ended and life became problematic again. Just my 2 Cents.

Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
 
— Ken
 
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
 
— Jonathan Schultheis
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.