I wish I hadn’t come across this article at Christian Post because it really, really ruined my afternoon: Easter Checklist: 18 Factors For a Successful Church Outreach. Here’s how it all begins:
Easter Sunday is less than a week away and most churches have already laid out their strategies on how to reach the unchurched and non-believers during arguably the most important Christian holiday.
But in case a little help is still needed, C. Michael Johnson, president of Breakthrough Media, suggests 18 factors that can “really” impact a church or ministry’s Easter outreach efforts in a recent “Mindstorm Idealetter” from Breakthroughchurch.com.
To start off, churches need to set real and specific goals that they are firmly committed to bringing to reality. Next, they need to measure their progress in short increments towards reaching the goals. So whether the goal is to see the church packed with 500 people or to transform congregants, the planning committee needs to first set a goal. [Here’s a goal: to faithfully proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to people going to hell.]
Friendship is another key factor. Johnson reminds church and ministry leaders that the goal of marketing, in the simplest term, is to develop conversations and create friends. The Kingdom is “all about” friends – “finding friends, being a friend, leading friends to be friends of God.” He suggests churches plan and measure how they are making progress with the friend factor.
After working on the friendship factor, churches need to be prepared to answer the relevancy question – “why should I give you the time of day?” People have spiritual needs and the church should find creative ways to promote how they can help meet these needs for non-churchgoers. The Easter program should not just focus on “us” if the church plans to use the service as an outreach opportunity, but make sure that it stays relevant to even newcomers. [What is more relevant to people going to hell than: Jesus died for the sins you’ve done and paid the penalty for your transgressions?]
Once the unchurched arrives for the service, Christians need to use the language of dreams to explain what they believe in and invite the visitor to participate in the dream of God for this world. [I really wish I had some idea what this paragraph even means. Seriously, can someone explain to me what this means?]
“The language of dreams (purpose, identity, passion, heart) defines the most relevant, responsive message you can ever use to build lasting relationships with the unchurched,” Johnson wrote, noting that God “wired us” to dream.
OK. So let me get this straight. Once a year or so people, in this case unbelievers, open themselves up to church. Here’s what the article says: “Easter is a rare occasion when many non-churchgoers open themselves up briefly to the Gospel and hearing about the life of Jesus Christ.” So, on this rare occasion when many are opening themselves up, we ought to talk in ‘dream’ language, and we ought also to tell them that the kingdom is ‘all about friends’? (Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I say.” Other than that, we are his enemies. See John 15:14.) The article concludes this way:
Combine the Friend Goal with the Dream Goal and you have the basis of what we call a ‘Community of Dreams,’ which is a pretty good definition of a church,” Johnson wrote, “a community of friends nurturing and releasing God’s dreams into their transforming place in the world.” [Sounds like something I heard on the Electric Company as a kid: Meaning, Less: Meaningless. Point, less: Pointless.]
Churches are also encouraged to move away from predictability and include an unexpected factor in their program. The Breakthrough Media president noted that Jesus in his days did the unexpected and even surprised his mom. [I agree, let’s surprise the people who come through our doors on Easter Sunday by not preaching some mindless gibberish about how Jesus wants to be our friend or ‘come into our heart’ and instead preach a hard hitting sermon about Justification by Grace through Faith. Or perhaps a sermon about how Jesus propitiated God’s wrath. Or how God’s wrath is being revealed against all ungodliness. Or how about how Paul says in Romans that all are without excuse before God. Or how about God so loved the World that He gave his son to be crucified for our sins. You know, that would really surprise people.]
Other helpful suggestions to improve church outreach include raising awareness about the church, using word-of-mouth church marketing, delivering a good community experience, and following-through with trying to bring people to Christ.
Easter is a rare occasion when many non-churchgoers open themselves up briefly to the Gospel and hearing about the life of Jesus Christ. Churches, as a result, should take advantage of this precious opportunity to reintroduce or introduce someone for the first time to the Gospel and the core tenets of Christianity – the cross, the resurrection, and salvation through Jesus Christ.
So, let me get this straight. After everything else is done, the dreams, the friends, the surprises, etc., only then are we to really get into the nitty-gritty of the core tenets of Christianity. Loosely translated this means: Sucker them in with a bunch of hype and then teach them something else. Or, Hide your true identity until they get in the door and then wow them with your orthodoxy.
I didn’t see preaching of the Gospel at any point in this article. And yet: “Faith comes by talking to people in the language of dreams.” (My loose translations of Romans 10:17.) OK, here are the 18 ‘Factors’ we need to bear in mind when preparing a Resurrection Worship:
1. Goal Factor
2. Friend Factor
3. Relevancy Factor
4. Dream Factor
5. Media Factor
6. Unexpected Factor
7. Awareness Factor
8. Viral Factor
9. Experience Factor
10. Harvest Factor
11. Time Factor
12. Development Factor
13. Numbers Factor
14. Synergy Factor
15. Trust Factor
16. Withreach Factor
17. Community Factor
18. Body Factor
I don’t even know what any of this means. This is from here. Ironically, at the same Christian Post website, the main story on the front page is this: Foolish Preaching of Cross Needed in Churches, Speakers say. Says the article:
“If we don’t understand the harsh reality or theological significance of death, we will never truly celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Mahaney stressed.
Just ahead of the start of Holy Week, which marks the last week of the earthly life of Jesus and is considered the most important week of the year for believers, speakers at the Orlando conference spent three days expounding on Scripture passages that spoke of the cross and resurrection of Jesus.
Bluntly stated, the cross is bloody, it’s an offensive message and it’s a shameful death in the ears of the world, said Steven J. Lawson, senior pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., during the Ligonier conference.
The word of the cross is foolishness. In other words, it’s nonsense, pointless, idiotic, and mindless. “That is what the cross is to the natural man,” Lawson noted.
Even though foolishness to many, a straightforward delivery of the message of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus is power to those being saved, and it is desperately needed in the church today, he added.
“It is a distasteful announcement that the herald brings and yet, he is responsible to God to discharge his duty to bring the entirety of the message,” Lawson said, noting that heralds are marked by the straightforward delivery of the message regardless of what the results may be.
“We need heralds. We need to come back to the foolishness of preaching,” he emphasized to hundreds as he denounced modern trends of replacing theology with theatrics and expository preaching with entertainment.
And the article concludes thus:
So as Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday approaches, Mahaney reminded believers about the significance of this holy week.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ “is not merely a point of doctrine,” he said. “It’s the most gracious divine solution to the problem of sin and death and judgment.
“Easter reveals the divine provision for sin and death and judgment. Easter proclaims that sin and death and judgment don’t have the final words because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death.”
“The forgiveness of sins has been secured and salvation has been secured,” he highlighted. “That’s what Easter announces.”
If I have an audience once per year that I do not normally have the other 51 weeks I preach, I am not going to stand up and tell them, “Jesus wants to be your friend.” Frankly, that is hogwash. Instead, those who are not Christians and who feel like they need to make their yearly haj to their local church need to hear about the coming wrath of God and their destiny in hell because of their lack of faith in the work of Christ. I’m serious about this and preachers need to be serious about it too. What is at stake here is the souls of lost people. What’s more is the integrity of the Gospel message. The above list of 18 Factors is a joke, and, not to put too fine a point on it, bulls***. (I don’t mean that in a vulgar way. I mean that is what it is.)
Preach the Gospel! Preach Christ crucified! Preach Christ’s triumph over the powers of death and hell! That’s what the lost need to hear on Easter Sunday.
Soli Deo Gloria!
PS-I hope later to publish the first in a short series of blog posts I have titled: Lament for the Church: Reflections on the Church in America