I read a tweet today that said this is the season when people are most likely to come to church, so invite them. I think this is something we hear at Christmas and Easter every year. When we hear this, I think our response is usually, “yeah, that makes sense.” I mean, nothing screams the need for repentance like investing a small fortune in the commercialization of our faith OR believing that bunnies lay eggs.
When I read that this year, I started to think “NO.” I hate that we have begun to view every new season as an opportunity to grow the church, buying into the marketing schemes of people who have successfully manipulated the masses into attending their “big push” services. This focus isn’t new. We used to have “Friend Day” or “High Attendance Sunday.” Now we have the attractional sermon series, or giveaways to get people to church so that they can get Jesus!
The problem I have with that is an ecclesiological one. What we believe about the church is off. We believe that church is a place where something magical happens. People have to come inside to meet God. The New Testament, however, never views the church as a place, but as a people. I would agree that exposure to the church should be how most people find God, but the church is you and I, not a Sunday morning “experience.” We continue to perpetuate this false equivalence and the Christ-Followers in our churches begin to act myopically “WE MUST GET THEM TO CHURCH.” Like little robots, the people who should be the transformative agent in their friends and families lives, seek only to get them to where the magic happens. Instead, we should be teaching our people that they are the church. They should be speaking the truth of the Lord into their people’s lives. They should be the ones who get to experience the joy of seeing their friends coming to Christ through their own influence. They should be the ones who get to lead their people through breakthroughs in their faith. I know, I know, it’s difficult to “count” those things for our church growth to be “real,” but those are the situations that matter. That is where true, New Testament discipleship happens. I have read the New Testament a hundred times or more, and never seen a thought like “get them to church [a place] to find God.”
Theology matters. If we have incorrect views of what the church is, the way we operate (based on those beliefs) will be incorrect. Sometimes those incorrect methods will reap some rewards (like when we buy a horrible stock that goes up anyway), but most times it won’t. If you don’t believe that we are doing this church marketing thing all wrong, think about this: we spend more money on marketing than the church has ever done in the United States and our impact into the culture is continually declining. We have tried the seasonal focus. We have tried the seeker-sensitive rock concert / dog and pony show. Isn’t it time to get back to what the Bible teaches about church, and train our people to view themselves as the change agent in people’s lives? The church is the most powerful force in the world, because it operates in the power of the Holy Spirit; but the church isn’t an organized fiefdom, it’s the collection of believers working on mission for God.