A Little Understanding – “How-to” Do Church Books
“…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2
We can fix the problem in Isaiah 53:2. We can do an image makeover so that people will run to Him and the church. One makeover idea I have heard is; “we need some of that good old gospel preaching again, that will fix everything”. That good old gospel wasn’t the good news of the gospel, instead it was a way to scare the hell out of people. Fire and brimstone. Jesus; the insurance policy against the coming disaster. Church was for the saved to feel guilty about their inability to live right and the unsaved to feel scared that they were even further away from living right. There was an aura of hopelessness that made those in attendance feel they could be sent straight to the fiery pit if for a moment they had a thought not in line with the teaching of the man in the pulpit. It didn’t matter that Jesus wasn’t beautiful or majestic, He was all that stood between you and eternal fire so you better learn to desire Him.
The pendulum almost always swings to the opposite side.
In the next makeover, Jesus was a nice guy who loved you just the way you were. He forgave your sins and everyone else’s so no matter what, He won’t send anyone to hell. Swinging back again to the other side, Jesus hates gay people and wants them to be put to death. Jesus hates women who get pregnant out of wedlock and anyone who gets an abortion is going to hell. Now back to the other side, Jesus wants you to be wealthy, healthy and powerful (“how-to” do life books turned into a part of “how-to” do church). The way we do church often reflects the way we think we need to market Jesus to those who attend.
The last big trend in how we do church was the biggest marketing strategy of all.
We gave church a makeover, reinventing its purpose and its focus. No longer do we have to worry about Him having no beauty or majesty to attract people, we can make church beautiful and attractive. Who cares if there is nothing in His appearance to make us desire Him, we have great entertainment, that’s what everyone desires. Talking about a pendulum. When I went to church we seemed to honour badly done preaching and music because we liked the fact they were trying to serve Jesus.
Suddenly we honoured slickly produced services with high tech visuals, music that not only sounded great but the presentation was on par with many rock concerts. The preaching made us laugh and feel good in a state of the art facility that rivalled any local venue. Gone was the badly done (which is a good thing), but also gone was the focus on serving Jesus. It became all about making things look professional (which is not a good thing).
This new trend uses the number of attendees…
…to determine if the church is resonating with people. It looks for other churches that use similar approaches to bring legitimacy to the ideas that are employed. It makes sure the way church is done is not like the churches that came before. All of these measurements are very similar to the way marketing strategies are formed.
Biggest market share (committed buyers) = success.
Other companies wanting to be like us = we must be doing something right.
We are different than those who came before us = we are the new and improved or even totally reinvented product = we do it better.
Jesus did not attract large amounts of people when it came to truly committed followers and many who considered themselves committed followers were quick to abandon their commitment when things got tough.
Most people didn’t want to be like Him they just wanted to be around Him when He was the big attraction in town.
He, through His death, was the new, the improved covenant but this didn’t mean He was the competition trying to beat out the old way. Instead, He was building on the old way making His sacrifice the completion to the old covenant.
If we are to judge the effectiveness of Jesus’ ministry in the same way some churches judge their ministry, Jesus was a complete failure…
There must be a balance…
…a tension between the quality of what we do and the real message we are trying to present. There is no greater way to worship God than to use the talents and gifting He has given us to bring attention to Him. There is no greater way to dishonour God than to use the talents and gifting He has given us to bring attention to the collective of Christ followers. It is tough to tell the difference between the two because they both aim to do the best that can possibly be done.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I do what I do because I love God and want to offer Him my best.” I don’t doubt you, but I have to ask you:
- Do you notice any boundaries placed on what is said or what is done in church?
- Are there off limit topics or expressions of praise and worship at the weekly service(s)?
- Do these constraints change the message, make it less likely to offend someone?
- Has your church become a showcase for talent rather than a showcase for the gospel message?
- Is your collective of Christ followers really more of a collective of people who are looking for a church that looks like them so they can feel comfortable?
- Do you leave the church service feeling good, even great, just like you feel after seeing a movie or attending a concert?
Stay tuned A Little Understanding – Landscape and Décor part 6 will be posted in May 2020.
From time to time my blog will include abridged excerpts from my book “Blueprint.” Like any author/blogger, I find it difficult to leave the words I have written in my computer until a publisher can be found. Maybe it’s because someone somewhere needs to read these words now.
For more excerpts and quotes from my book Blueprint find the heading “Categories” on the right side of this page and click on “Blueprint (my book)”