Revealing Strategy

The church that we have been attending since leaving our CLB is a franchise of Willow Creek. The people are friendly but not intrusive. They have the anonymity thing down pat. We have attended 3 years with a very minimal level of contact from anyone at the church.

We chose our level of engagement, back row and uninvolved. We declined involvement in programs and ministries and in doing so have not involved ourselves in the community beyond a surface level. That was our decision. We understand the response (or lack of) it produced.

It was interesting to me to read these thoughts from Greg Hawkins:

For years the value people appreciated most about the seeker-oriented weekend services was anonymity. This is what all their research showed. People didn’t want to be identified, approached, confronted, or asked to do anything. But those days are over.

And they are!

We get something in the mail almost every day now from the church – postcards, letters, 8×10 mailers, a dvd, fancy brochures, all with a catchy new logo and letterhead.

We have also received several phone calls in the last couple of weeks inviting us to special meetings and receptions. Wow, we are being courted. Suddenly they want to know us!

Oh never mind. I was wrong.

It’s a capital campaign.


24 thoughts on “Revealing Strategy

  1. If you never sign anything – they never know. Best to just walk by the visitor’s center – or have one of your kids grab some of the material. They probably have all that on the web anyway – that’s where I got it. Read everything they have.

    If I just go to the Mega church about once a month – I can get all of the hounds off my back – say I’m going to the “Happy-Clappy Mega Sappy Community Church of ….”

    It’s great – I can get in the shower at 9:00 – be there by 9:30 – and get home by 10:45. That’s not too high a price to pay to get rid of all the religious hounding we end up being around when we surface from the underground.

    I do have to warn you though – we started doing this Mega church thing about 6 months ago – we’ve probably attended 10 or 12 times or something like that.

    This week one of the religious hounds asked me a very startling question – and that is “who’s the pastor over there” – you know what – I didn’t know the guy’s name.

    Lucky for me the guy doing the talking wasn’t really trying to engage me – and he answered his own question (wrongly) before I had a chance to ‘fess up or offer some reasonable explanation. When I got home – I had to ask Beth the pastor’s name. She just laughed at me. It had taken me three months to get the church’s name right. One thing at a time I guess.

  2. Oh, it’s so hard not to be cynical when thinking about church! I can’t decide which I dislike more — being ignored totally or being pursued only for the church’s agenda (or my money). I would say neither is a good representation of normal human relationships, let alone “they’ll know us by our love.”

  3. Grace and others, do you contribute to the churches you attend????
    Where will your funeral be?
    What if single and want to marry?
    Will anyone pray for you when sick or in need?
    This is my curiosity, who takes care of everyone when the church as an entity no longer exists. I serve in one of those churches adn get called regularly by those who don’t want anything to do with us until they are in need. I don’t buy into most of what the church does and says but wonder who will take care of everyone???

  4. Hey, waynO, hope you don’t mind if I jump in here. I’ll answer as one “outside the system” to see if it helps shed any light on this topic for you:

    (1) I will not have a funeral. My body will be donated to a local university for the medical students to dissect. I will have a memorial service at a friend’s home, by invitation only to those closest to me. However, a few years ago a dear friend of mine had her mom pass away. This friend is “outside” the four walls of church. She, the daughter, spoke at the service, and it was one of the most moving things you can imagine. Services don’t need to be in church buildings, they can be held anywhere, by anyone. There just is not a “need” for a “pastor” at these functions, though I have no objections if one needs or wants that for comfort, etc.

    (2) Anyone can get ordained (yes, legally) on the internet and perform a wedding. However, in my case, my hubby and I both used to be on staff in a local church and we’ve kept our “credentials” to do things like weddings, when needed. But, there’s always the justice of the peace, etc. Someone recently got “ordained” online so that he could do his own son’s wedding–outside the “four walls.” I love it!

    (3) We have many friends who are believers and any and all of them will come pray for us and anyone else when we are sick. All of them are also not “part of a church” as you might think of it.

    The church, you see, has not ceased to exist just because we don’t go to a building. The church is made up of believers, and as I am in contact with many believers in intimate relationship; we are there for one another. I think there’s something in scripture about that ;-). We don’t need “staff” from church to meet these needs or any other. You need to know that I have no ax to grind with those who do meet at buildings and have paid staff. I think there’s room for everyone. I just hope we can come to the point where those of us that choose to meet differently will be consider as much a part of the body and bride of Christ as those who “go to church.” I love what Jeromy at A Mending Shift wrote about “gathering as the church.”

    Hope this helps, seriously. I thought it might give you some insight into how “we” outside the building are still functioning as the church. I’m happy to answer any other questions.

    Grace, if this is too long, delete at will!

  5. Wayne,

    I currently tithe (gross income) to my church, but not because anyone has compelled me to, and certainly not because I am church-centered. I do it because I believe in the Christ-centered mission of our church, and I see evidence of its fruit.

    I believe encouraging chruch members to tithe because it’s their building, their Pastor and staff, their programs, etc. is church-centered. If this is true, then ‘targeting’ marginal attenders, visitors, seekers, etc. to give (more) for those very reasons either makes them obediently church-centered or repulses them all together. It’s generally the latter – especially these days.

    If someone wants to get married in our facility – it’s gratis for members, but non-members pay a fee. We’ve never had a request for a non-member to have a funeral here – but it would probably be the same. We never charge anyone to be prayed for. We utilize our facility for a couple of public service programs – and I would like to see more.

    Many of the issues you site will become more pronounced in years to come as the traditional conservative model of church wanes. Our culture has changed dramatically, and the traditional church structure is suffering because of it. Even we are experiencing the pain of it. There are no easy answers – but trying to externally motivate marginal attenders to be better givers is only going to make things worse. Motivation needs to be internal, not external. When God’s people get a true vision for mission, they will be internally motivated. I believe that a Christ-centered ‘missional church’ is the Spirit’s message for the church of the 21st century.

  6. Wayne, I can’t speak for Grace, but, halls are available for rent. I’m not sure that many people would attend my funeral anyway. You don’t make many friends when you buck tradition. I would hope the friends I do have would pray for me when I’m sick, though I can’t imagine that they would accept money for this service. I also can’t imagine that would need direction in this endeavor from paid clergy. As far as needs go, I’m beginning to think that the contemporary church is the perfect definition of enabler. Its getting as much as its giving. So, I don’t think the contemporary church offers us anything that God does not provide through our brothers and sisters in Christ, affiliated with a church or otherwise.

    The thing that has me really hung up though, is who is going to educate the masses in the way of the Lord…. But then I reflect back on the sermons and practices over the years and really have to conclude that there must have been a lot of wasted seminary years.

    I know that many churches do have a positive impact on the community, and you sound like you care about your community, but that caring should really be coming from people. Try also to imagine the ministry of Jesus: No roof, no budget, no needs based ministry, no leadership structure, no funerals.

  7. Grace, if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear why you attend this church. You clearly are not their for relationships, so what draws you back every week? I’ve been thinking about your post and what I know about you from your blog, and cannot answer that question to my satisfaction. :-) Thanks!

  8. I agree with all of you who responded. My thoughts I guess come from a couple of people who do not attend any church any place but everytime they are transferred via ambulance they won’t leave until “I” have prayed with them. Makes me wonder how many others out there need that and how/who will they be cared for.
    Often it is “the church” that gets the call to care for the broken and hurting. I fear that when this all shakes out there will be no one to just be there. Maybe it is unwarranted???
    Thanks for the words and I take them as hope that all will be okay, but then I guess if I really have faith God will and does work things out for us.
    Liked what Jeromy said.

  9. Wayne –

    In 10 or 12 services we haven’t given one penny to the Mega church. I figured so far I may have had 2 ounces of grape juice and enough of a wafer to make a fourth of a cracker. Their income is about $60,000 / week, they don’t need mine. The show’s entertaining sometimes. I guess I go to the movies about once every couple of years – so maybe I could put in $7.00 once a year or something for the entertainment value.

    My family and friends will bury me – not too hard finding someone to do that.

    In some states – you don’t even have to be ordained to perform a wedding – we actually did an underground wedding last summer. It was all legal.

  10. I am with Tracy, I am curious why you (Grace, Jerry) go to churches you don’t want to invest in relationally or with your resources.

    Also, I don’t know that Jesus’ ministry is a good comparison when talking about money…it seems wealthy women supported him:) I get Jesus’ ministry and money that supported it is a far cry from a capital campaign, I just think it is unrealistic to think that faith communities no matter what size can operate without some amount of resources.

    Once again, good conversation Grace.

  11. Rose,

    I go there because that is what my wife wants right now. At first I really fought her, but her and I don’t fight, and so I just let it go – and when ever she wants to go – I go with her.

    We had never been to a Mega church before – we were extremely Charismatic in a past life. She really thought that it would be a lot different than some of our past experience.

    A couple of weeks ago – the pastor really hammered on the congregation and it hit her very hard. We are all too aware of what performance based Christianity does to people. For the first time in the last 6 months I was able to say to her – ‘Betts- we’re never going to be able to go back you know’ – and she is starting to see that – but she’s held out hope that maybe I really am a lunatic – and maybe this church stuff really can be salvaged. In many ways I’ve always been a little too radical – and she’s been my sanity. In some ways, I wish that were the case this time around.

    Her motivation is completely governed by our kids. She is 100% mom. Our last 18 months or so have presented us with some very unique challenges – and that is – most of the places we’ve been – we really didn’t want our kids to go there with us. We kind of ended up in a very bad part of town doing evangelism.

    Our problem is – we’ve really seen Christ incarnate in the body and that kind of ruins you. But our other problem is that – it takes a very long time to get out of and lead people out of Babylon (what I call the institutional church). We’ve been working with a group of people (individually) for about 2 years laying the foundations for “church” – but still many of them want to congregate – and hierarchialize – and some of them still think they are the Moses that’s going to lead these people to the promised land – and they think we should gather around their preaching and tremendous anointing. They are a pretty awesome group when we’re all focused on evangelism and some common goal.

    To anybody rushing into house church – I would give you this advise – don’t rush – take a very long time – be very patient – there’s a whole lot of Babylon that’s still in us – and if you don’t believe it – you will after your first two house churches fall apart. You know what – we’ve seen a couple of them crumble – but we still have all of the relationships – and that really is a good thing. Our problem wasn’t getting us out of Egypt – our problem has been getting Egypt out of us.

  12. I know very few people participating solely in house churches. I have long wondered what is the giving paradigm in most house churches and where is the money given? Is the average amount given more or less than in the traditional church (which seems to be around 2% or something like that).

    It doesn’t seem Jesus was overly concerned that the widow gave her last bit to the mega-temple. He was however, very concerned that the mega-temple was not using their space as intended and so kicked the money changers and sacrifice sellers out of the place where Gentiles were supposed to pray.

  13. Fulfilling God’s vision, that’s our mission – what’s the mission? If you should choose to accept it …. sounds like a Tom Cruise thing.

  14. I know myself, having a CLB of my own… actually found a body to become fully a part of. Yes we tithe there (had to fight hubby on the gross net part) but thing is… this place is showing MAJOR fruit in the lives of people there… including our own… and the ministry of the church is what I want to pour into… amazing stuff… and God has shown me where He is taking this little church… so I can’t help but want to be a part of that…

    seriously first time I’ve felt that in a “church”… and I’ve been in two “mega” churches in my life… before they were all the rage even… before I felt like I “had” to contribute… financially and otherwise… now I find myself giving up cable so I can give more, not buying that new gizmo so I can contribute to an outreach or something… and I’m loving the fruit I’m seeing!

    I guess it’s quite the paradigm shift for us… hrm..

  15. Jerry, You’ve pretty much summed up my future if I walk away from the church I’ve been hanging out in. I keep hoping the experiences you describe are an anomaly but I keep hearing more stories. I understand the Egypt thing totally.

    Inheritor, I think the contemporary church sells a lot of services. Not much has changed since Jesus cleansed the temple except the money exchanges hands in the main assembly instead of in the far corners of the building and we call it worship. There’s nothing wrong with collecting money for services rendered (tuition fees, dance school, youth entertainment) but we shouldn’t think of it as kingdom giving. The apostle Paul collected money to provide for the needs of the poor believers in Jerusalem. The money the Corinthians gave, left the country, and gave them no tangible return.

  16. I am sorry I don’t have time for individual responses this morning.

    I appreciate all of your thoughts, questions, personal stories, and perspective.

    I attempted to address many of the issues raised in my next post, and I would like to continue the conversation there and would value your continued input.

  17. I have a friend who describes much of what current church does as “club med” what we need is to get back to a “fed ex” mode of operation.

  18. David, I am of the belief that the tithe spoken of in scripture is just the minimal starting point of God’s vision of kingdom giving. It seems that one model of giving in Acts is holding all in common and distributing as any had need. I have yet to see anyone in any church setting doing anywhere near that. I know that our church supports many missionaries and gives to many people who are in need. Perhaps more would be given to those same folks if we operated on a house church model, perhaps not. That is really my question, what percentages of income is given by those in any given church model? and then also, who is that money given to? Giving does also have a personal spiritual growth component to it as well. We can call it worship, we can call it a means of kingdom growth, but it is also a snapshot of where our own heart is with Jesus. In this case, how much and to whom are both valid questions in my opinion.

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