A few days ago I was listening to a Christian radio station. During one of the breaks between songs the DJ read something about building relationships with people. One of the things he mentioned was that people are by nature selfish. Therefore, if we want to build a good relationship with them then we need to appeal to their desires and interests; we must center the conversation around them. He continued reading the list naming several good qualities as long as vices and how we must respond to them. At the very end he said by doing these things we will have influenced them for God.
Are we really influencing people for God if we cater to their sinfulness and “build a relationship” based upon this premise? This question extends far beyond the assertions of this Christian DJ. This question is crucial to our methodology of outreach. We know that people like sex and violence…so should the church have an MMA night or send fliers heralding “Learn Great Sex”?
Consider Jim. Jim is ridiculously selfish (like most of us). We send a team from our church to canvas our neighborhood. A team stops at Jim’s house. We ask Jim why he does not come to church and we ask what it would take to get him to church. We find that Jim is not the only one that has these problems with the church. His suggestions seem to resonate with many of the unbelievers in our area. Here are his suggestions:
- I hate long sermons; give me 20 minutes maximum.
- I don’t like boring songs but I also don’t like repetitious cheesy love song either.
- Never ask me for money; I can stay home and listen to TV preachers do that.
- I want people to be friendly but not overly desperate and acknowledging me in front of everyone else. Notice me but not too much.
- If I have to walk too far or park in a cramped space just forget me coming. I face traffic to get to work on Monday, I don’t want to do the same on Sunday.
These are his suggestions. So, what is the church to do with them? Do we say, “well he’s a lost guy and lost people are not to dictate what we do in the church”? Or, do we say, “he’s a lost guy and if we want to reach him then we need to reach him where he is at”?
What did Jesus do? What did the New Testament church do? If you assume this is an easy answer then you probably have not thought it out well enough. If you are a “lost people don’t dictate the church” then try arguing from the other side. Same thing if your not that guy.