I have lived the majority of my life in the middle of the “Bible Belt,” with a church literally on every corner. Yet despite the large number of churches, why is it that most have little or no apparent influence in their communities? Some of these churches are ones that have departed from sound doctrine and the sufficiency and primacy of Scripture; however, there are also many evangelical, Bible believing churches that fall into this category.
One of the major factors is the mindset of the church leaders and members. By nature, people gravitate toward others who have things in common with them. This happens a lot in churches. We tend to open up more with people who are like us, people with whom we feel “safe.”
I am convinced this is why most churches (if they grow at all) grow by transfer. They attract people who are already accustomed to the church culture and “know the drill” regarding how it works. The idea of growing by conversion is something they endorse, but rarely, if ever, experience.
If you look at it from the perspective of those who don’t attend church, you can see why. Many non-believers think that Christians are judgmental, unhappy, controlling people who just happen to meet together once or twice a week. While it is unfair to generalize, some or all of that perception is true in many cases. Knowing that, why on earth would a non-believer ever want to attend a place like that?
Here are some questions for you or your church to consider:
1. Do you try to put the cart before the horse? I know it is a cliché, but it is true nonetheless. Sometimes, we try to impose our standards of right or wrong on people who visit our church before we share the gospel with them. We expect visitors to adopt our values even before they are born again. People may get the impression that if you don’t drink, don’t smoke, and show up once a week in the same pew, you are OK and fit right in. What a frightening principle in light of the radical, life-changing message of grace.
2. Do you have your priorities straight? Sometimes, churches or even entire denominations are more known for what they are against rather than what they are for. Anytime a church gets a reputation of being against (or even for) something over and above the preeminence of Jesus Christ, there is a major PR problem that may be based on deeper problems. Nothing, absolutely nothing, should cloud the church’s message of the gospel of Jesus Christ or have priority over it.
3. Do you discriminate? I could go on and on about this, but will be brief. When people visit your church, be careful not to gravitate to those who look or act like those who already attend your church. The church’s call is to reach everyone, not just those who look like they fit in with the church’s self-imposed culture.
4. Are you proactive in the community? Does your church have an “if we schedule it, will they come” mentality? In other words, what is your church doing to meet people where they are in the community? Jesus did not just hang around the synagogues and temple waiting for people to come to Him. He pursued people on their turf.