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Looks like we have a bonus post this week! LOL!
Yesterday, I wrote about how searching for a church is similar to buying a used car. Every church will have problems and those who admit this are the churches that will have an easier time attracting and keeping the people who visit them. Like I said, we don’t need to air the dirty laundry or have “Family discussions” every week so people can see the problems up close, but we do need to be real and make sure we are not trying to make ourselves look better than we are.
A realistic view of our church will produce real members who will help us improve.
This is why we must “Keep it real” when reaching out to the community. Having said that, I believe that it is still important to put our best foot forward and lead with our strengths. We just need to make sure that our strengths are the actual strengths and not what we want our strengths to be. The popular phrase “Fake it until you make it” is a terrible strategy for growing a church.
Now that we are “Keeping it real,” let’s make sure we “Keep it positive” too!
Nobody likes a church that is constantly complaining about what is wrong. Nobody wants to attend a church that keeps talking about why we can’t do this or why we don’t reach that group. Nobody feels motivated when a church looks more like a wounded bird instead of mounting up with wings like eagles from the renewed strength of the Lord.
We should never try to make the church look greater than it is but we should avoid giving the impression that the church is suffering from a fatal disease.
Whether the church is rebuilding from several years of decline or if it is growing by leaps and bounds, we should stay optimistic because the Lord is in charge, and He will not abandon His children! That should put a smile on our faces and that smile should be seen by those who live near the church.
Those who know us are familiar with the struggles we have been experiencing with our van over the past year. After 8 years of faithful service, we are facing the tough decision to either perform “major surgery” or say goodbye and trade in our van for something new. Of course, the word “New” for us means a vehicle we have never driven before even though it may have 100,000 + miles on the odometer.
With the years of “Shade tree” experience thanks to my dad teaching me, I am able to buy a used car and make it last longer because I can recognize what needs to be repaired.
When shopping for a used car, the most popular question I like to ask is “What’s wrong with the car?” The reason why I ask that question is because I want to know what the salesman says. None of the cars will be perfect because they are all used cars, but if the salesman cannot admit that or if he doesn’t know what is wrong with the car, perhaps he is not the type of guy I want to do business with. I want somebody who will be honest with me and let me know the history of the car so I can decide if it will be worth the effort to fix it.
In many ways, finding the right church is similar to buying a used car.
Unless the church is a plant during its first few weeks of operation, the church you visit will be used. It will have already been attended by many different people, and there could be problems since no church is perfect. For this reason, it is important for a church to be real when visitors show up. I’m not talking about airing the dirty laundry and having “Family discussions” every week so people can see the problems up close. I’m just saying that the church should not try to be something it is not.
A used car will never be as good as the one that just got delivered from the assembly line. A church will never be as good as the one that is described in Revelation 21.
A church will never be perfect, but it can be profitable for those who attend. And this should be our goal. Instead of trying to be the best church in town, we should make every effort to become better than the church we were last year. If we can improve every year, people will notice, and they will appreciate the fact that we are being honest about our situation. Who knows? We may end up with a visitor who can help us recognize what needs to be repaired, and that will help us become a better church.
When we were preparing for our trip to California, one of the details we had to work out was where we were going to sleep at night. I mapped out the trip and found 4 cities where we would stop for the night so we could search for a hotel in the area. At that point, I had to figure out the cheapest room so we did not use too much of our budget on our hotels.
Having found the place where we wanted to stop, we were ready for the next step in the planning process.
Since we were limited financially, we decided to go with a hotel chain that has the reputation of having the lowest rates across the country. I’m not going to reveal the name, but they did leave the light on for us! I went on their website, made the reservations, and checked off “Hotels” on the list of stuff to handle before leaving.
At this point, I was told that I should have used a “Price Finder” to help me find the best deal.
Sometimes, well-meaning people will give you unsolicited advice after you have already solved the issue. The popular website that promises the lowest price everywhere you go is not as great as they present themselves to be. Although I did not use them to plan the trip, I have tried it before and ended up using the original hotel I had in mind so I knew that I was better off just sticking with my plan.
The problem with a “Price Finder” type of website is their approach. They flood you with several choices at once and then put the pressure on for you to make a decision immediately. It was common to see “Only 3 rooms left” or “Limited time at this rate” next to the hotel choice. Along with that, they had a timer counting down the number of seconds you had before the deal would be gone. If you did not make the reservation before the timer ran out, you would lose the deal and the room would disappear.
The hotel chain proved to be the best deal for many reasons: The price was reasonable, the rooms were clean, we could get to the hotel easily from the interstate, we could call the hotel directly and talk to the people who would check us in, and they did not pressure us to make a decision right away.
In many ways, churches can act more like the “Price Finder” instead of being the “Hotel Chain” they need to be when visitors show up. There are times when the church creates a special day or event in an effort to get people to show up and then pressure them into making a commitment before they get a chance to learn about the church. These high pressure tactics can cause people to reject the church even if the people in the church have pure motives.
What is the best strategy for reaching those who have not yet joined your church?
I can’t answer that question for everybody, but here is what appeals to me. I want my church to be consistently good at what they do. I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I do want them to try their best and work at being a good church that can benefit the people who attend. If they can help me move closer to God and grow in my relationship with Him, they have won my loyalty!
I also want my church to genuinely care about me instead of making me feel like another “customer” who can help them grow in number. I don’t need high pressure sales tactics because I want to be able to research the church and get to know the people before I decide to start attending on a regular basis. I want the church to “Leave the light on” for me because when I am ready to commit, I want to be able to find the church that is the best fit for my spiritual needs.
I guess what I am trying to say is that I would rather be part of a church that is more like the “Hotel Chain” instead of the “Price Finder” type of website that appears to be helpful as long as you are ready to move at their pace.
Today, I was watching Dr. Phil since there was nothing else on TV that caught my eye, and I actually found it interesting. He had a couple that was struggling with clutter in their house. Actually, clutter is a little too nice of a word for what was going on, they were hoarders. Well, the husband was trying to clean up the house; the wife was the hoarder. To be honest, hoarding may not be an accurate description either because of the depth of junk she had in their house.
To be fair, the stuff she was hanging onto was not junk, but the fact that it was not being used moved the stuff into that category. She had clothes piled up on the stove because there was not enough room on the table, the counters, the couch, the bed, or in the closet! She collected water bottles because she wanted to recycle but Dr. Phil said that she wasn’t recycling if they were still sitting in her house. They had a 14 year old son who grew up thinking that a cluttered house was normal so he was shocked to find out that his friend’s house did not look that way.
The scenes were bad, but the effect on their health was even worse. In one of the segments, Dr. Phil had a person go into the house to take measurements and he found several varieties of mold that contributed to their son’s asthma and the husband’s congestion every morning. Not only were they not able to move around in the house because of the clutter, they were also in danger because their health was declining.
To say that they needed help is an understatement. The wife’s problem was much deeper than the need for a spring cleaning. She needed to deal with the underlying issue of anxiety that has held her captive for years.
At some point, we all have an issue with clutter in our lives. The church can become cluttered when it hangs onto the past while trying to add something new. While blending the old and new can be a healthy approach to ministry, there is a certain amount of letting go of the past that must take place so there can be room for future growth. Hanging onto the past would be like leaving my pants from high school in my drawers even though I will never see that size again.
We must make room for the new if we expect to move forward as the church, and that means we need to “de-clutter” on a spiritual level.
I’m not talking about moving the piano so we can put a couple of guitar players on the stage. I’m not talking about removing the pews so we can bring in chairs. I’m talking about our attitudes toward the church as we know it today. If we are not willing to let go of something comfortable, how can we expect other people to make themselves at home with us?
Although I could keep going with the church illustration, I would like to switch gears and make this personal.
When our sins are forgiven, we need to let it go. If we hang onto the guilt from the sins that have been forgiven, our spiritual lives will become as cluttered as that couples’ house I talked about earlier. And when our spiritual lives become that cluttered, we will no longer have room to move which will cause our spiritual growth to slow down.
Not only will our lives stop growing on a spiritual level, our spiritual health well suffer. Just like the different types of mold in that couple’s house, the guilt from forgiven sin can cause us to fall into destructive patterns of defeat rather than rising above our past in order to declare the victory we have in Jesus!
Whether it is having the right attitude in church or letting go of the guilt from forgiven sin, we need to make sure we clean up the clutter before it takes over our spiritual lives.
Here is something else to think about. Remember the 14 year old son who grew up thinking that their house was normal? If we harbor the guilt from forgiven sin, our kids will grow up thinking that this is normal for them too. We need to let it go so our kids can learn how to live a life free from the guilt that can clutter our spiritual lives!
If God forgave you, let it go. Don’t try to reason the guilt back into your life. You sinned, you were forgiven, now let it go because God already forgot about it!
Now that we have been back home on the East Coast for a few days, I have noticed that I am watching movies closer to see if I recognize the filming locations. I was watching a movie today that contained several shots of Beverly Hills and I noticed that the scenes were tight. There were several signs, storefronts, and houses that were missing the context because the background was not included in the shots. By removing the context of the scene, our imagination kicks in and creates the full image according to what we believe it should look like.
Now I understand why I was disappointed when we drove through Beverly Hills.
One of the places we drove through was the famous Rodeo (Row - day - oh) Drive in Beverly Hills, and it was much smaller than we expected. The actual length of the road is not very long although it contained the stores that we have seen on TV. Through the magic of movie making, our minds created a different version of that road that turned out to be wrong.
The tight shots that removed the context of the scenes combined with our own imagination created a world in which the movie version is much bigger and more glamorous than the places we visited in California.
Sometimes I wonder if we use the same tricks when looking at the Restoration Movement. For many people across the movement, we are struggling to maintain our identity in the midst of doctrinal issues that have taken center stage in many ways. For others, the movement is alive and well with a momentum that is carrying us into a bright future. Some people declare that the end is near while others see greatness on the horizon. Why is this happening?
What we are facing is the classic scene of the glass being half-empty or half-full. And when the context is removed, our imaginations are running wild!
The North American Christian Convention has been a hot topic for the past couple of decades because of the battle between those who like the direction we are going in and those who oppose it. Of course, the reality is that the NACC has always been under the microscope ever since the beginning. During the first few years of the convention, we had to establish our identity by emphasizing the doctrine that separated us from those who were trying to move our churches to the liberal side of the movement.
After our identity was established, we needed to strengthen our churches so the decades that followed brought in leadership training through offering workshops that focused on specific parts of the ministry. Along with the workshops, we established a children and teen convention so the entire family could attend. There were many great ministries created and leaders encouraged during those years, and the NACC continues to support the local church by offering a yearly gathering where we can connect with those we don’t normally see outside of the event.
Although the NACC is still useful for the Restoration Movement, tunnel vision has appeared because of the lack of context.
Tunnel vision is a condition in the eyes that prevent a person from seeing the big picture. Just like looking at the end of the tunnel from the inside, there is no peripheral vision because the sides cannot be seen. Without peripheral vision, context cannot be established. And when the context cannot be established, our imaginations will create our version of what is happening.
The lack of context is creating a world in which the criticisms of the NACC are exaggerated and in many ways causing people to see a completely different version than what is really there. I’m not saying that we don’t have problems with the current convention. We do have issues that we are working on and over the past few years, I have seen progress being made. We may be a few years away from getting to the place where we need to be, but we are moving in the right direction from what I can see.
Unfortunately, there are many people who disagree with me, and they are not shy about expressing their opinions even if they have not attended the NACC recently. To those critics, all I can say is that looking at the big picture will prevent tunnel vision, so please take a step back and try to see the context rather than focusing on the tight shots that cause your imagination to take over.
In a world where we claim to be independent of each other, some of our church leaders do have a funny way of showing respect for the gatherings in which we encourage each other to continuing being independent churches.