What Matters Most?
I have said it before, and I feel it is worth repeating here: “What if we stopped tracking the success of a church by its attendance and started tracking success by its discipleship and outreach?
What is the point; do we want more people in church or do we want more people following Christ?
Wide Is The Path
If Church attendance is your goal, then there are a million and one gimmicks that can help you out. You can change your music, you can add lights and smoke, you can take away the pulpit and preach from a stage. Replace the coat and tie for tennis shoes and t-shirts. You can water down your message, so you don’t offend anyone. You can serve coffee in the lobby and snacks after service. See, there are so many things you can do to attract more people, and some will argue that this should be our goal. If we get them in the door, then we can lead them to Christ.
Now, don’t get me wrong; there is nothing fundamentally wrong with any of those items, minus watering down the gospel. Where I draw the issue is that we are using gimmicks to get people into the church and trying to disguise bad theology with a fancy show. The problem is; they see right through the smoke and mirrors and it is not working.
Here is the catch; I think that church attendance does not always bring someone closer to Christ but bringing someone closer to Christ will increase their desire to attend church. I hope that makes as much sense written down as it does in my head.
Out of Focus
If our focus is on getting everything just right to get them in the door how much room is left for us to focus on the actual ministry? If we spend all our capital on building renovations and sound systems, then how much is left to give back to the needs of the community?
Most folks will have their first encounter with the gospel through the witness of another person, not through a worship service. The first seed that is planted is usually through the example we are setting and the way we are interacting with our community. The entire purpose of being the Church that we are called to be is not to be confined inside of a building on Sunday mornings. The meeting and gathering together are to encourage one another and to strengthen our witness.
That We May Go…
Instead of focusing on getting more people in the door maybe we should focus on sending more people out the door. Until we stop focusing on our buildings and the style of worship and start worrying about the needs inside our community then our pews will remain empty. They may be occupied physically but they will be empty spiritually.
A heart on fire for God will not be confined to a seat on Sunday morning. A heart on fire for God will be a living witness 24/7.
I recently read a couple of articles on this topic and can see that there is a shift among congregations towards this line of thinking but there is still a focus on the false sense of having to do something special to keep these people engaged once you get them in your doors.
My Two Cents
Just for the record, my two cents will not even buy you the world’s cheapest cup of coffee, so I am going to give them to you for free.
Cent #1. People will attend a church that is accessible. You may have the best church in the world for ministering to those in poverty, but your church just happens to be in the richest neighborhood in town. I don’t think that is the most accessible option for those that are facing poverty.
Many people will choose a church that is accessible to them even if it does not meet all their personal likes. So be a church that is accessible to the community you are trying to serve.
Cent #2: Not everyone is going to attend your church and that is okay. Our goal should not be to get people to come to our church but to come to God. If they just so happen to come to our church as they grow closer to Him then all the better. If not, no worries, you still did what you were called to do.
Engagement Over Attendance
In a recent article, Carey Niewhof wrote: “Attendance grows out of engagement”. This is a great way of looking at this entire process. If you are engaging those around you then your attendance will naturally grow. Another quote from Carey that I love is “In the future church attendance won’t drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance.”
In the early days of the Christian church it was never about a building it was always meant to be about a community of like-minded believers. I think it might be time for a revival. I am not talking about a weeklong worship service but I am talking about a revival of the church and getting back to the roots of what we are supposed to be.