As I reread my recent blog entry, I was troubled by the implicit premise: “attract people to church.” This has a marketing tone. From my background in business, I understand marketing–product definition, defining a market, building brand recognition, etc. Some churches have effectively applied these principles to the family of God.
Making the transition from businessperson to clergy is jarring. Businesses exist to build shareholder value. Shareholders are also stakeholders. Churches have stakeholders. These people have built the churches and sustain church ministry. They give legacy gifts in order to sustain God’s work in the future. Church stakeholders and business shareholders are easy to confuse. When these roles get murky, theology begins to take a secondary role to institutional growth (or survival).
When considering church growth, theology must remain prominent. God will not be confined. God is not secondary to institutional growth. People from an evangelical mindset, invite people to church in order to bring them into a relationship with God. The basis could be something like the Great Commission, Matthew 28:19-20. It could also be based in the salvation ideas of the New Testament. In other words, people need to be saved. This mindset reflects a belief that the church has a role in salvation.
An alternative is to invite people to church because communion with other believers is mutually enriching. The invitee is enriched by joining a community of Christ-seekers. The community provides discipleship opportunities, support in times of need, opportunities to serve, and more. The community is enriched by the the invitee’s giftedness. New people bring in new ideas. God can speak through new people, new ideas… new wineskins.
For me, I will continue inviting people to church, not because I believe that they are lostand in need of saving, but because the gospel is worth sharing. I try not to be selfish. God has enough love for everyone. God’s tent is big enough for differing ideas. I want to hear some of those ideas. Let us grow together.