I am speaking about the evident delusion we have that a “ya’ll come” strategy by the modern western church to impact the world has carried us down the wrong road of strategic planning. We have become pre-occupied with a consumer driven approach to mapping out our ministry and approach to reaching people and sharing the Gospel.
Early this morning an article posted on the internet telling people how to find a church caught my attention. While the pastor said many things that were realities to which I could give a hearty “amen”, he had at least one glaring omission. If you are looking for a church home, one of the primary characteristics I believe you should examine is the basic strategy of ministry of the church. Is the church an “attractional model” or a “missional model” in its BASIC strategy? Most are almost exclusively attractional.
We can say whatever we want to about who and what we are. I think that our calendars and our budgets tell the truth. The average church devotes less than 2% of its financial resources to missional commitment and activity. We have become all too self-serving. But it is not just our financial expenditures, and even calendared activities, our basic approach is flawed. We give our energy to providing the “best” atmosphere and environment in a particular location on a particular day to attracting a crowd. As I have said before, many churches look like “Six Flags over Jesus.”
The Hartford Institute for religion research has given strong evidence that the actual number of people attending church in America on Sunday each week is roughly half of what Gallup reports. They have discovered that Americans tend to exaggerate the numbers significantly. Their conclusion is that roughly half of the people in the U.S. are in churches on Sundays. That includes attendance in all congregations, even non-evangelical churches.
Lifeway Research has recently reported that 22% of Americans state today that they never attend church. More staggering is the growing realization that approximately 60% of those in the US population who never attend church are actually outside the reach of the evangelical church. They are not likely to ever attend church, no matter how they are invited. Returning to the discoveries of Lifeway Research it is important to note that 79% of those surveyed say “Christianity today is more about organized religion than loving God and loving people.”
I mention these couple of tidbits of information to simply make my point. If Christians want to seriously make a difference in communicating the Gospel message of Jesus Christ we should begin with the original instructions that God has given us. Our manifesto from Jesus Himself was that we “Go and Make Disciples” of all peoples, every ethnicity and every village. Unfortunately, as I have noted, we have transformed those instructions in almost all of our churches to a “Ya’ll Come” strategy. (For those of you outside the south, “ya’ll come” means an attractional model of doing church. Come to us and we will tell you the story.)
Over the last few weeks I have had the privilege of visiting a number of different kinds of congregations in their worship. Some have been large, others smaller. Some have been traditional in style, others contemporary. Some have been casual, while others more formal. I have included other ethnicities. What has been uniformly the same with careful examination is the realization that almost every single church was primarily “atractional” in its approach to impacting the community around them.
I would contend that it is time for us as church leaders and congregations to recognize that most of the world is never going to come to us. Jesus apparently did not expect them to because He said, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” And it is imperative that we recognize that Jesus didn’t say just go across the street. He definitely said we were to reach out to those across the street, but He also said at the same time we were to be reaching out around the world. Acts 1:8 is understood many ways. Let me suggest, “Jerusalem” is illustrative of people who are near to us and similar to us. “Judea” is representative of people very similar to us, but not as near. Samaria, on the other hand, represents people not at all like us, but relatively near in proximity. And the “ends of the earth” represents those who are neither near to us, or similar to us.
There is no reason whatsoever to think that Acts 1:8 is sequential, that is we should reach out at home first. In fact the context of scripture as a whole makes it clear that it is to be done simultaneously. Let’s determine intentionally to be missional in our primary strategy. There is no reason that we should stop ministering to those who come to us. But there is compelling reasons that should not be our main focus. A non-missional church is a misnomer. The church is missional by nature and a group that is non-missional is not a church at all.