We compiled a list of answers and concluded that we could reach the people in our community and get them to go to church if we started a church that removed these barriers. Our focus was to create an environment that would welcome unchurched people and hopefully provide church as a place where they would meet Jesus and choose to follow Him.
We mailed several flyers to the community with the underlying message – “come to our church because we’re not like the church you don’t want to go to.” We saw ourselves as a church for unchurched people. We consciously made decisions to change the way we did church, believing it would enable more people to enter the kingdom. And to some extent, it worked. Unchurched people started coming and many of them became followers of Jesus.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Just changing the way we do church is not going to get lost people to come to church. Your neighbor or boss isn’t likely to get excited about coming to your church because you’ve got a great worship band with beautiful back-up singers and video announcements and practical teaching and excellent children’s programs and an offering box in the back instead of an offering plate that’s passed down the aisle. And the checker at the grocery store isn’t going to suddenly want to come to your church when you tell her you’ve got rugs and candles and dim lighting and stations for journaling and reflection and prayer.
There’s nothing wrong with changing the way we do church. Quite frankly, many changes are necessary. The problem is when I think that changing the worship service will actually make going to church more compelling or attractive to non-believers. I think that designing worship services for spiritual seekers misses the entire point of the Great Commission. Jesus didn’t send His followers to invite everyone to a church service to hear about the Resurrection. He sent them to go and proclaim the Good News of the Resurrection.
I’m not against Christians inviting their friends to church. I’ve invited my friends to come to our church and see what it’s all about. I’ve encouraged believers to bring friends with them. I’ve attempted to warmly welcome them and explain the Bible, the gospel and what it means to follow Jesus. It would be rude to be unfriendly or assume that what we do makes sense to unbelievers
However, I don’t think the purpose of “church” gatherings is to evangelize lost people. I don’t think churches should focus on marketing and making church attractive to lost people. This is a popular strategy practiced by many churches and I’ve used it at Lake Hills. And to some extent, it’s been effective.
But I wonder, if someone had told me or somehow I had understood that every believer could function as a missionary in their neighborhoods, schools and workplaces – and if I had intentionally focused every weekend on equipping believers as missionary disciplemakers, could we have reached more people for Christ.
What would happen if your church stopped trying to attract “unchurched” people to come and hear the gospel in church and started equipping believers to go and proclaim the gospel and make disciples?