Friday, August 04, 2006

"What You Win Them with Is What You Win Them To"

Considering the conversation yesterday and with Gavin's encouragement, I'm posting my blogpost from today here for the consideration of the group.

"What You Win Them with Is What You Win Them To"

This statement, spoken by Randy Harris at the Lipscomb Summer Celebration, is an idea that has stuck with me, in my craw since I heard it. I realized in listening to it the bald faced truth of it.

Many churches over the last generation or so have adopted an "attractional model." In other words, offer enough programs or special services or cool teaching (or teachers) or hip worship, and people will come into your church. Once you've got them there, you just keep offering those things enough because you have to keep the people there. This is ESPECIALLY true in a place like Nashville where churches are like lobbyists in Washington; you can't swing a dead rat without hitting one. If you don't offer someone what they like, they'll just go somewhere else. So, following the title of this post, if you offer someone a great children's program and then children's program changes or goes away, then they just leave or stay and complain about it.

The focus then needs to become in our congregations, not the attractional model, but the missional model. I've talked before about how "missional church" or "missional Christian" should be absolute redundancies, but the sad fact of the matter is that our congregations have become more like affinity-based social clubs, rather than organizations with the mission that Jesus gave us in Matthew 28. What we have to be clear about is the purpose we are here for. We are to be a blessing to the world, recalling God's call to Abraham in Genesis 12. We are to work with God in bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven, creating disciples of Jesus not simply admirers of him or adherents to some beliefs about him.

The challenge comes in working within an existing church to do this. I think Otter Creek is starting down this road. You can listen to some of the recent Sunday sermons (last week's Purpose of Membership, specifically) and hear a greater calling to discipleship, that our elders will be asking us the questions about our discipleship walk. Undoubtably, there have been people who have come to Otter Creek for our children's programs and/or our worship and/or whatever else (not being like other Churches of Christ). I hope those people will join with the elders and other members in this push toward greater discipleship (even though statistics apparently show that churches that begin this kind of transition from attractional to missional/discipleship focused lose 50-70% of their attendance).

I firmly believe that a congregation that devotes itself whole-heartedly to following Jesus could make a change in its community. I pray God gives me the strength and perseverance and patience to walk through this with my brothers and sisters, and that Otter Creek can be a place where disciples of Jesus are formed and matured and grow in the faith with a mind toward Jesus and a heart for the world.


Dixon said...

Good stuff... as usual. Thanks for sharing.

I love the anlogy as the "church as lobbyist". In nashville that is SO true.

Tim Conder just released a book call "The Church in Transition" (or soemthing like that) and it's all about helping existing community go from program/attractional to missional in their posture toward God and the world. Might be helpful.

As always you are an insightful mofo!
I bet you've never been called an insightful mofo before have you?


gavin richardson said...

can we call someone a mofo?

Phil said...

I taught high school for 6 years. I think I'll take mofo because I'm positive I got called the other MF word behind my back several times.