We’re not like the church you don’t want to go to

When I started Lake Hills Church, we went door to door and asked the question, “Why do you think most people don’t go to church?” We thought this was a clever way of asking, “Why don’t you go to church?

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?


Dave DeVries

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Dr. Dave DeVries is a coach, trainer, author and founder of Missional Challenge. He is passionate about coaching and training church planters and missional leaders. With 30+ years of church planting and leadership development experience, Dave brings his passion and encouragement to those he trains and coaches.
7 replies
  1. blind beggar
    blind beggar says:

    Great post Dave and spot on. I’m afraid that if the average American faith community quit working their attraction programs, you’d see little or no evangelism. That’s because I really don’t think most Christians are willing to give up the “good life,” or the view that the church is there to meet their needs, to live the sacrificial life necessary to become a true missional people.

    What has been your experience at Lake Hills?

  2. Bob Carder
    Bob Carder says:

    To answer your question: We would join with God in a missional disciple-making movement that cannot be stopped.

    Herein lies the key to creating a missional disciple-making movement. This is the answer that will fuel missional movements in America.

    Let’s live incaqrnationally so that people will be drawn to Jesus and not just to our great programs and excellent worship services.

  3. ZooMuse
    ZooMuse says:

    There is an element in the Church today (consider the Jenkins/LaHaye books, the “Left Behind” video game where you get to blast those who reject the good news)of triumphalism which is defined as “the attitude or practices of a church that seeks a position of power and dominance in the world”; and “The attitude or belief that a particular doctrine, especially a religion or political theory, is superior to all others.” Don’t get me wrong. We do walk in triumph in Christ. He triumphed over the enemy on the cross. Yet, there is a difference, perhaps subtle, between triumpant and triumphal. Our decisions to stay in our churches and make them come to us says it all. There is an ugly arrogance about so much public Christianity that makes Jesus invisible to so many people. Just because Jesus is the truth doesn’t mean we need to seek to dominate others with this truth. Kingdom behavior always comes from below, not above. That will only be seen when we meet people on their turf, where they feel safe and where we truly are guests and need to act like guests, with grace and appreciation for the hosts.

  4. David M
    David M says:

    I, too, like what you’ve written.

    I wonder what would happen if those same people you were if-ing about were also “trained” (yikes!) to be fully submitted, holding nothing followers of Jesus Himself?

    What if Christians weren’t weird because of who they aren’t (less than even “normal” humans) but because of who they ARE (children of the Living God Himself)? What if there wasn’t any need for training them to “go out” because “going out” was already the prompting of the Spirit in their submitting heart?

  5. ZooMuse
    ZooMuse says:

    Dave M’s comment hit’s the nail on the head in that it recognizes the reality that we are dealing with a DNA issue. Why is it that the “salvific” (how’s that for a big word?) DNA of so many of our conversions end as typical, passive, pew-sitting, sermin-listening, programmtic Christians? Is there something in the gospel to which they respond (and which they hear because we preach it) that leads to this? Do we need actually to place the gospel more clearly in its much broader context of the Kingdom, and participation with the King in his work. If the goal of salvation is that I am going to heaven, then what more is there for me to do except endure years of sermons and programs? But, if I respond to a gospel that says, “come, particiapte with God in his redemotive work over all his creation,” wow, maybe people who sign up for that will come with a different DNA. I love the view of the gospel that sees it as analogous to “Aslan is on the move,” i.e., God (culminating and emanating from the cross) is on the move. COme join Him!

  6. Miguel
    Miguel says:

    For too long we have been content to shake salt on other Christians and shine our light under the bowl of the church. Your premise is exactly right: no matter how much we change the way our church looks or operates, unbelievers will not start pouring through the doors. Which should not come as a surprise since the OT Temple ‘Come and see’ approach has been replaced by the NT ‘Go and disciple’ mission. And yet we still expect them to come to us. But when they do, someone gets angry becuase they sit in their favorite seat. It is time for us to stop ‘going’ to church and start being the church, Monday through Saturday.

    Keep bloggin, my man. This is good stuff.

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