Orginally published on Thursday, March 01, 2007 at 6:00 AM
by Devin Hudson
Here's one of the bottom lines in ministry: you will not please or keep everyone. Every individual has their own preferences, beliefs, experiences, and traditions. Every person who enters the door of your building has their own way of thinking. They all have their own opinions. Some of them will agree with you and some of them will disagree with you. For that reason, you will never make everyone happy. The earlier you learn that lesson in ministry the better. But here is something I have discovered: you can choose who you lose. Let me explain.
Every church caters to a certain group of people. The style of music you play, the songs you select, the sermons you preach, even the illustrations you choose will cater to a certain group. There is no such thing as completely objective ministry. Every decision you make in ministry has an effect upon a certain group of people. If you choose not to have a nursery, you are making a decision that affects people with children. Whether you choose to use a piano and organ or an electric guitar and drums, you are making a decision that affects a certain group of people. Even the stories you choose to use in a sermon cater to a certain group. Almost every decision in ministry affects a certain group of people in a certain way. That group may be folks who have a 1950s philosophy of ministry or a group who prefers an 80s or 90s style. You may appeal more to parents with elementary-aged kids, people with grandkids, or college students, but the reality is that the way you do ministry will cater to a certain group (whether you consciously or unconsciously are aware of it). That’s the reality. And here’s the good news within that reality: you can choose who you lose.
There is no way a church is going to satisfy everyone. Don’t even try. But what you can do is decide which group of people that you are going to seek to reach most effectively. Grace Point Church has been pinned with many different labels. We have been called seeker-sensitive. We have been called emerging. We have been labeled relevant and contemporary (whatever those terms mean). We have been accused of both watering it down and preaching it too hard. We have been told we are the best thing since sliced bread and we have been told we are the worst thing since ... I don’t know ... unsliced bread??? I personally don’t like labels or being pigeonholed into a stereotype, but here’s the bottom line for us amidst that discussion: we know that we will not please everyone but we can choose who we lose.
And here’s the choice we have made. If we are going to cater to a certain group, we are going to cater more to those who need the gospel. We are going to cater to those who have little or no church background. We are going to cater to those who have been disenfranchised with the church or have walked away from church for some reason. We are going to cater to those who were burned by the church as a child or who have no real reason to believe the church has any relevance to their life. We are going to cater to those who are not churched. Do you know why? Well for starters - 95% of our culture fits in that category. And a second reason? We believe God called us to this particular culture to bring the gospel to those who need it. I believe Jesus referred to it in terms of the sick are the ones who need the doctor and not the healthy.
If we are going to lose people at Grace Point Church, we prefer to lose those who do not get this bigger picture. We prefer to lose those who have so much church baggage that they cannot see past their own spiritual mirror to understand the contextualization of the gospel. We prefer to lose those who are so consumed with their own spiritual “growth” and development that they cannot see the lost world that lives everyday life around them. We prefer to lose those who just want more head knowledge and who have NO friends who are nonbelievers. We prefer to lose those who will sign-up for a dozen Bible studies at a time but you cannot get them to paint graffiti, pick up trash in the community or invite their co-workers to church. We prefer to lose those who live like the Christian life is all about them (regardless of what they say—actions speak louder than words).
How does this principle work itself out practically? There are a number of ways, but one simple way: on occasion do a filter series or sermon. What is a filter series? It is a series that will be a little too much for those who do not get the bigger vision to take but will connect to those who are away from God. It is a sermon that will push the envelope to the point Christ-followers have to decide whether they can actually be a part of something like this. It is what Jesus did in John 6 to distinguish the true followers from the bandwagon followers. It is a series that will help define who you are to the church and community.
We just finished a series that falls into the filter category. It is a series called Tattoo. I have posted about it on my blog, but let’s just say it was the most provocative series of our history and has generated more discussion inside and outside the church than you can imagine. We were even featured in the Las Vegas Weekly – one of the most risqué entertainment guides in Sin City.
And whether a person agrees or disagrees with the series, its content, and its creative elements, it has at least generated some dialogue. And it has also helped filtered out a few good people who probably did not need to be at Grace Point in the first place. It has helped define our intention of reaching those who are away from God.
And by the way, what it has also done ... it has allowed several people who have not stepped foot in a church in many years to come to Grace Point Church and hear the gospel. Some of those people are now “messed up” spiritually. They don’t know what to do with the message of grace. Some of them have embraced it. Some of them are processing it. Some of them have walked away. And some of them are reluctant to really believe God can forgive and accept them. But all of them have found a community that desires to love people regardless of what they look like on the outside.
You can choose who you lose. And for us? We choose to keep going after those people who need the gospel but the institution we call “the church” sometimes stands in their way of hearing it.
Devin Hudson is the Lead Pastor of Grace Point Church in Las Vegas. His blog www.graceisthepoint.blogspot.com is a popular blog among church planters and young pastors and offers keen insight into the ups and downs of church planting. His authentic and engaging style help prepare church planters for the raw realities of launching a church. Devin is married and has 3 beautiful children. He also has an earned PhD in New Testament.
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