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Learn more about my journey in church and marketing.
Have you ever wondered... What if Starbucks marketed like the church?
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BEYOND RELEVANCE MUSINGS ON CHURCH, STRATEGY, AND CULTURE

BY RICHARD REISING

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Jun 22

Preparing Your Church For Greater Growth

Jun 22
Jun 22

Have you ever wondered why some churches have existed without an ounce of growth for ten years, where in the same community other churches have multiplied over 10 times within 12 months? Have you ever questioned why?

The mystery of church growth has eluded us far too long.

Many church leaders have struggled with issues of growth for years. They have tried a multitude of promotional strategies, from door hangers to giving prizes for bringing visitors, and, unfortunately, these attempts have had little to no effect over time. Even worse, by promoting a church that was not seeing internal success, many have actually hurt their long-term opportunities for growth.

Church leaders, if your congregants are not actively inviting people there are reasons why. If your visitors are not staying, there are reasons why. These are considerable problems, but have hope—there are solutions. Sometimes little changes can bring about big results—and sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.

The Foundation for Church Growth
The greatest challenges to effective church marketing come well before anything is printed or placed in cyberspace. Those challenges are what I call pre-marketing.

Pre-marketing deals with preparing a church inwardly, long before strategic advertising or promotions take place. Its basis is found in our ability to relate to our communities and alleviate the enormous gap that generally exists between church culture and the world. In spiritual ways different is good; however culturally it can be devastating.

Please understand that there is no suggestion here to compromise the Gospel or suppress the ministry of God’s Spirit. The presence of God and a strong scriptural foundation are prerequisites to any move of God in our churches. I am suggesting that we must focus our efforts on being simple enough to be understood and powerful enough to change lives.

Jesus understood this principle. He spent a good portion of His ministry fellowshipping with sinners. He understood how they thought and acted. He spoke in parables to help them comprehend spiritual things. He invested time into their lives—recognizing what they thought they needed and what they really needed. Jesus ministered to both. That’s the essence of good marketing—knowing what makes people tick. The time it takes to learn this is our investment into our communities.

Connecting with Our Communities
Unfortunately, in most American churches, we have created somewhat of our own Christian counter-culture. We tend to speak in “Christianese,” which leaves visitors thoroughly confused. We are vying for the attention of a generation of media-saturated nonchurch-goers who are accustomed to being communicated to in an extremely well-planned, professional way. Yet, we are at-large poor planners and unprofessional implementers.

How can we relate to this group of people—who represent the primary avenue for healthy church growth and the heartbeat of the Great Commission—if we do not know how they think and understand the language that they speak?

“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law,” 1Cor 9:20. The profoundness of what Paul is saying is that in order to reach people we have to adapt our lives and our approach to them—understanding how they think, communicate and perceive things. It is impossible to relate to someone without adapting our communication to his/her understanding.

The ability to relate to our communities and church growth goes hand in hand. When a ministry can successfully relate to the people in its congregation, the church-goers will be willing to invite others because they know it will relate to those they invite.

Marketing from the Inside Out
Effective church marketing starts from the inside and moves out. Churches need to develop a plan that will ignite them internally, before they begin to promote externally. Once your church is lit up on the inside, the right marketing strategies will help your church explode into the community. No matter what stage your church is in, successful outreach begins with putting a finger on the pulse of your community.

I asked a young friend how he was enjoying his church and he admitted that he loved it, but was bothered by the fact that the church wasn’t growing. I asked him why it wasn’t growing and he acted bewildered and said, “I have no idea.”
“Yes, you do.” I challenged him, “You know why it’s not growing.” After a silence, I asked, “When was the last time you invited someone?”
“Well, it’s been a long time,” he said ashamedly.
“Why don’t you invite people?”
He shuffled his feet and said, “I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do,” I said. “The same reason that you don’t invite people is the same reason that your church is not growing.”

It might be simple. A congregant might be embarrassed about the church decorations, the woman who shouts from the back of the church, or feel ashamed that the pastor tells jokes about his wife. The harder it is to invite people, the more challenging church growth is.

You see, I knew my friend loved God and wanted others to experience Christ’s love. The unfortunate fact is that most people are not intimidated about being Christians, they are intimidated to invite people to their church.

This brings up one of the basic foundations of pre-marketing and the springboard to church growth: the easy invite. If an invitation is hard to make, for whatever reason, fewer people will be invited. The battle for growth is first fought in the heart of the church-goer who wants to better the lives of those around him/her. This is actually the desire of the vast majority of church-goers.

By analyzing the temptations and challenges associated with inviting people to church, we found the following to be true. If a church-goer can answer these 5 questions positively, then inviting friends and family will be not only easy it will become a lifestyle. The church will explode with growth!

  1. Will my friend feel welcome?
    Inviting—The atmosphere, nomenclature and style of service should be comfortable and non-intimidating to the un-churched
  2. Can I feel confident that I know how the service will turn out?
    Consistent—People need to know what to expect, because they will invite accordingly
  3. Will my friend get something out of it?
    Relevant—The songs and message should be understandable and applicable for people at all spiritual levels
  4. Will my friend understand it?
    Simple—Jesus taught through practical illustrations
  5. Will anything that could seem strange to the non-church-goer be explained through Scripture?
    Sensitive—Scriptural actions should be carried out with clarity and considerate explanation

Most of what stymies church growth in America relates to these fundamental issues. Be honest. Diagnose it. Pray over it. Be willing to change. Once you see substantial growth occurring through your congregation inviting people, you can then start advertising. Until you do, you are not ready to invite the masses!

18 comments

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Rachel

Excellent article. Thanks!

Posted on Wed, Jun 22, 2011 @ 9:25 PM CST

Adam Cummings

I don't understand this website at all. Marketing and Christianity are two things that do not go together, nor should they. You misuse parables in your post. Jesus didn't speak in parables so the layman level sinners could understand. Just as tongues were a judgment of sorts against the Jews (showing that the gospel had gone forth to the world; 1 Cor 14:22; Acts 2), so Jesus spoke in parables because he knew that the world (sinners) would not understand him (Matthew 13:10-17). Also, when you see the beginning of the church in Acts, it was not intended for unbelievers. Acts 5, and the story of Ananias and Sapphira, was not exactly marketed or seeker friendly at all. 1 Corinthians, of course, shows that unbelievers may come in. But the church is for believers. Believers are to go... out... to the world, not bring the world in. That's evangelism.

It is the church's job to be faithful to the truth and to love one another. As the truth is preached, GOD will grow His church (Acts 2:46-47).

You need to be less concerned about your marketing and more concerned with what the Scriptures say. I say this for the readers. I'm sure this will get deleted. But, trust me, I found this link through You-Tube (I thought your Starbucks video was hilarious). I'm not one of these guys who doesn't have a job and leaves mean comments on everyone's blog. But, this idea of marketing and Christianity is deplorable, and I pray your readers will see that one day, despite how you are turning their minds in the wrong direction.

I wish the best for your readers, and I pray God's truth will reign.

Regards,
Adam

(cummingsam@mail.masters.edu)

Posted on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 @ 1:51 PM CST

Ben

Wow - that was nice. I don't normally leave comments on blog sites as well, however in this case I thought I would make an exception. I appreciate Adam's response, but respectfully disagree. To think that Artistry Marketing, or any church consultation firm, is trying to make marketing the eternal focus of ministry the end goal is to misunderstand the difference between the message and the messenger. Certainly church is not about a marketing plan, however it can use one. I read in same book of Acts where the end result of the outpouring of the Spirit was to add souls to the church. The word in the Greek is Prostithemi which means to join together, the number of followers or believers. They were joined in with the church - the power of the Holy Spirit was for a purpose. To seek that which is lost...
I think there has been a judgement against marketing as a blanket of watering down the Word in order to make it more appealing. In my experience it's the opposite, it is emphasizing the power of the WORD of God to make it more known. Again - I love that someone is passionate about preserving the church, I just believe that you may have misjudged the intentions of Artistry Marketing.
Love to all
B

Posted on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 @ 10:48 PM CST

Richard Reising

Thanks Adam and thanks Ben, you guys rock. This is partly why I hate blogs, because I feel we're required to communicate profound truths without having the length of content needed to be crystal clear. Adam, it's fair to say that I made statements that were generalizations in an attempt to make a point that we should try and reach people for Christ with a heart to connect with them where they are at—and often that means to realize in advance that they aren't going to understand our Christian vernacular or often complex theological terminology. Certainly you can see times in Jesus' ministry—for example the beatitudes—when He "kept it simple." Again my apologies for generalization. As far as your thoughts on non-believers not belonging in church, I have to say that even Paul assumed that would happen. In 1 Corinthians 14:23-24, he challenges believers to be careful in how we use spiritual gifts so that non-believers would not enter the services and think we've lost our minds. I think I'm going to have to side with Paul that it's appropriate for us to consider and be sensitive about such scenarios.

I am not in any way trying to say that Christ is going to be palatable to all men. Jesus said that He would either be our stumbling block or our stepping stone. My heart for us as the church is that we would allow the message of Christ to be the only stumbling block and that we would not create our own stumbling blocks for the unchurched in the way we communicate.

I remember a time I was consulting with a church who had lacked growth for some time, and literally in the middle of a service that was well-attended by visitors, the pastor said, "this is the truth, and if you don't like it there's the back door." His caustic challenge was levied in the midst of a highly complex message that only a small percentage of seasoned believers would have any concept of. It was, in effect, like he was teaching advanced calculus to a group that had never learned algebra. As the church was struggling, we began to share with the pastor that the complexity of the service made it difficult for anyone who was not remarkably mature in their faith to comprehend. After he further defended his "there's the door" comment, he was asked how he had come to know Christ. He teared up and shared how when he was roughly 10 years old someone at a VBS shared with him what he called the "simple love of Christ." He said it was the first time anyone simply explained what Jesus did for Him—even though he'd been to many churches already in his young life that in his mind only complicated the message. At that moment, he got it. He broke down in tears and realized that he was now making it complicated for others to understand God's love and the message of salvation.

Sometimes in our desire to rally the troops we miss the way. We have to remember that while the goal is to feast on the "meat" of God's word, some people are still at the "milk" level. The milk level is not bad, it is just meant to be a season of the believer's life—and we would be wrong to deny milk just to those just coming to know Christ as we would be wrong to never help the church grow past it to the "meat" stage.

Adam, we both know the only thing that will change people's lives is Jesus Christ and the Word of God, but if we don't serve it in love and if we don't help people understand it, they'll only be on the outside looking in. At some point in your life the love of God became real to you. I think we as the church are responsible for helping this happen all over the world—through the work of the Holy Spirit. While my charge sounds like it's aimed at pastors in a pulpit, it's really aimed at all of us who have a heart to see their friends and family come to know Christ. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he prayed a prayer out loud to the crowd that He openly admitted that he didn't even need to pray (John 11:41-42). Scripture tells us that He did it so that others around him would understand—that's what I'm talking about. It's about being considerate in our communication as Christ was to care that those who lacked understanding would come to understand.

I have a lot of respect for the school that you attend, based on your e-mail address. I noticed that your school has a very attractive website, and has strategically determined how to communicate the message of the school. I would call what they've done as an organization, "strategic communication". Actually, I'd call it "attractive, strategic communication". Anyone in the marketing field today would tell you that's a concept found within the field of marketing. I know you hate that word, but please don't give up on its meaning. To say that marketing and Christianity are two things that do not go together would be to even make your university guilty of something spiritually heinous—as they are clearly marketing.

I love you; I think we both want the same thing. We want people to come to know Christ. We both want the Gospel to be communicated accurately as well as excellently. And while it seems that you've already given up on me by saying that you're "sure your comments will get deleted," let us both never give up on compelling the Word of Christ to go forth in accuracy, in love and with thoughtful purpose.

I know I might never be able to communicate enough in blog format or even in this response to help you see things from my perspective, but I would love to send you a copy of my book and openly welcome your feedback and any challenges that you need to offer as it relates to spiritual accuracy. In the end, I hope you would understand my intent is not to make the Gospel something it isn't—but to help us as believers steward the truth we've been given to share.

May God bless all you do for His kingdom,
Richard

PS Ben, thanks for having my back and seeing our heart on this topic.

Posted on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 @ 4:15 PM CST

Adam Cummings

Richard and Ben,

First of all, thanks for not deleting my comment. lol. I honestly just happened upon the site through the video. I don't make it a practice to leave comments on people's walls whom I disagree with. But, again, the Starbucks video was pretty funny.

Ben, I appreciate your response, as well. I also don't usually post on these things. I used to post a lot, then I realized how much bickering and useless arguing took place instead of intelligent Christian conversation. :) Old habits. lol. But, also respectfully, I understand the Greek prostithemi (the preposition joined with the regular verb, generally for emphasis). What I don't understand is how you are relating your point to marketing. What you said, God adding to their number, was exactly my point. We don't need marketing to spruce up God's truth or make it look good (and no Rick Warren, that not what "adorning the gospel" means). As God's Word is taught and preached, as the fear of the Lord is displayed to all (as in Acts 5), as truth is taught, God will add to His church. The very takeaway from the lesson in Acts should be that gimmicks and attractions are not needed... truth. Of course truth in love. To equate marketing with love, or to say that those who say truth not marketing must not be preaching the truth in love, would be a complete strawman. Not that anyone here has done that. But, you know, disclaimers. :) Thanks for staying respectful, though, Ben. I saw two responses and thought, "Oh boy, here we go." The kindness was refreshing.

Richard, in 1 Corinthians, I think (Love those words in biblical interpretation, right? "I think"...) Paul is simply allowing that unbelievers may come in. And, if they do, everything should be orderly. That kind of rules out modern charismatics rolling down the aisles. We agree there. However, that is not to say that the church is structured or purposed for unbelievers. I don't believe Scripture teaches that anywhere. As I said, I think the early history of Acts shows the exact opposite. To take the verse in Corinthians as a lesson to structure the church after nonbelievers would be like taking John 13:35 ("By this all men will know you are my disciples") and structure Christian love after nonbelievers.

As for the pastor who said, "This is the truth; if you don't like it, there's the back door." Yeah, harsh attitude. But, the problem is the attitude. Somehow you moved from marketing to an attitude of love and equated the two (rather purposefully or not, that is the flow of your response). People need truth in love, but they need truth. Isaiah preached to Jerusalem the damnation coming if they did not repent, yet he always saw his own sin (Isaiah 6) and he always numbered himself with Israel, saying "us" and "we." And what about when Jesus told the rich man to sell everything he had and follow him, was that marketed or seeker friendly? He knew, in fact, that this was an area that the man was glued to and dependent on, and he approached that one little point. The man went away. Did Jesus need to spruce up His message?

So, Richard, I don't agree with the premises of what I've been hearing and seeing on this blog. Of course, you can email me and I will gladly at least skim the book (not dogmatically, but thoughtfully, lol) and offer whatever I can.

I appreciate the thoughtful response. I appreciate the desire to see people come to Christ and the truth of the gospel. I truly appreciate both responses reflecting a Christian attitude and desire for truth. That said, I don't agree with what I've read, and I don't see how any of the comments on this post--which have spoken about truth and love--have anything to do with marketing. We need truth in love, yes. Marketing? Where is the link? I think thoughtful readers of these posts will see that one has not yet been provided.

Thanks again, Richard and Ben. I will try to pray for your ministry when I think of it, that the Lord will correct me where I may err; and that, if your presumptions are inaccurate and the basis of this whole website is misled (which I believe may be the case), that God would somehow provide its leaders/creators the ability and humility to shut it down or at least revamp the message to a truth and gospel orientation.

I think the church's desire to "contextualize", become "relevant", and look and smell like the world, has hurt it at every angle (e.g. Rick Warren, who asked unbelievers how the church should function in "Purpose Driven Church"; Mark Driscoll, who likes to use expressions and slang that "shock" in order to be like the culture; also, many other "contemporary" churches like look down on and mock those old "traditional" folk that look to Scripture alone for the orientation of their congregation).

Scripture calls us to be a pillar of the truth (1 Tim.3:15). That's it. As that's done, truth produces godliness, humility, and conformity to the person of Christ as the Holy Spirit uses His Word in the church. I would like someone to show me where contexualizing, or becoming like the world to preach to the world, is in Scripture (Note: misusing Paul's words, "I have become all things to all men", doesn't count).

Again, I wish you both the best. Thanks for the responses. Blessings!

Standing on Grace,
Adam Cummings

Posted on Fri, Jul 29, 2011 @ 2:29 PM CST

Richard Reising

Hey Adam,

Thanks for your last response. We might be able to go on and on for hours, struggling with each others syntax, but at the end of the day, the only thing I disagree with in your e-mails is your assumption that I'm about being "seeker friendly" (I am concerned you are placing me in a camp in which I do not fit) and our general difference related to the definition of marketing. It's an easy word for me to use, because I come from the corporate marketing background. Thus the word has a broader meaning for me than it often does for many within the church.

Scriptural accountability is something I covet and receive from both from the leaders in the church I attend as well as seminary leaders I work with on a regular basis. I want to be extremely accurate and so your challenges are well received by me. I don't in any way feel that marketing is ever to be meant as a replacement for the accurate and clear delivery of God's Word.

I pray that you will do all that you can with the gift that God has given you. I will attempt to do the same. I have the great honor of working with some tremendous churches and partnering with God to see thousands of people come to know Christ—what joy! May you also always experience the joy of serving Christ to the fullest and may we both always be teachable in our endeavors—to continually press towards the mark of the high calling of Christ.

Richard

Posted on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 @ 6:00 PM CST

Adam Cummings

Thanks Richard. A few of my comments were off the subject... one con about posting from work. :) But I do generally associate marketing with seeker-friendly. I'm glad that's a camp you choose not to associate with. I don't know how that works. But I'll take you at your word.

From your words, it at least sounds like you're a true brother in Christ. So, I won't pray impreccatory Psalms over you or anything. ;)

Best wishes, Richard. Thanks again for the Starbucks video. Despite our differences, it was pretty funny... especially having worked there a year ("Would you like a Perfect Oatmeal with your Orange Mango Smoothie?").

Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam

Posted on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 @ 7:57 AM CST

Janet

Richard,

I can hardly say enough positive things about your posts! Please don't ever stop! The church needs to hear (and embrace) your message.

We have the best message in the world! So why do we struggle with getting it to the masses and making an impactful mark in the lives of everyone around us?

Again, thanks for all you do and be blessed.

P.S. You have perfected Proverbs 15:1. A true man of God indeed.

Posted on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 @ 1:32 AM CST

Greg

I think the biggest confusion in the above dialogue(discussion/disagreement) may be due to an idea I've noticed prevalent in our American church culture.

One of the biggest (or most common) evangelism tools western churches use is it's church service. The New Testament models of church or evangelism don't have this. Like Jesus who came to "seek and to save," we should be going out and seeking out the lost. Too often, we invite people to church so they can hear the gospel from the pulpit...Why? Let's skip the middle man. Romans 10:14-15. We are all sent.

Thoughts?

In Christ and for His Kingdom,
Greg

Posted on Sat, Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:45 PM CST

Janna

I just want to say that I appreciate your input to this conversation and often times debate over the church and growth and what is and is not relevant. I just want to point out one thing that I do find to be a point where you and I would disagree, and that is that point number 3 I do not think is biblical in the way that you have defined it, and here is my reasoning. Believers gathered together for corporate worship (if that is indeed the aim of the church on a Sunday morning) should not be striving to make our songs to the Lord about anything someone outside of the family of God should see as relevant to them. The way the church speaks are the very words of Scripture. The songs we sing are deep theologically, ontologically and spiritually discerned and for this I give no apology. The church is to meet together for the apostles teaching, the breaking of bread, prayer and worship to God through songs, hymns and spiritual songs. The implications of that is this: they stand out and exclusively as does the gospel in reverence of our God who transcends all things man-made and are for God, not for the person in the pew. I believe in the attempt of churches to be culturally relevant, sadly the songs we sing in our worship services to the One true God who is to be praised forever, are being sung in Mormon congregations and you can't distinguish anything exclusive to the nature of God through them when the same words could be sung of Allah. My point is this: Church is for the church. The corporate gathering of believers is for God, and God alone. Outsiders must always be welcome and the Spirit of Christ within our walls must be evident, but I will not stand for the compromising of what worship is for the sake of un-believers. Rather, I worship the Lord with my whole heart and sing songs of deep theological conviction and doctrine to evidence the difference between my God and theirs, and in so doing, proclaim the nature of God, Immortal, Invisible, God only wise and as my unbelieving friend hears the character of God, and the mystery of the God head, I pray the Lord regenerates them to receive the Spirit. I fear the message of the gospel itself has been reduced in the attempt through music in our churches to be relevant to all and that my friend, and brother in Christ is not at all what the church is meant to do. We are not here to entertain you. "I resolved to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified." 1 Cor. 2:2

Posted on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 @ 11:24 AM CST

Richard Reising

Greg, thanks for your comment. I think it's critical that the church be the Church outside its four walls. But the reality is, if your church has a building and an address, people are still going to show up looking for help. I believe God led them there, so we have a stewardship responsibility with what we do with them. Let's agree that the church needs to get out of the pews, and also agree that the lost may seek help in our pews. We need to be there for them. Thanks again.

Richard

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 @ 5:40 PM CST

Richard Reising

Thanks Janna. Obviously we're not trying to water down our worship, but some worship songs can be so complex in their meaning that not every believer understands them. This is not as common today as it was maybe 15 yrs ago when "Ancient of Days" and "Blow the Trumpet in Zion" were popular in some church circles. What I was really getting at is making sure that we help people to understand the "what's" and "why's" behind what we do. I even heard a recent worship song that made our relationship with God sound like physical attraction in a romantic relationship. While I'm all for worship, we can make sure that it has the right tone and meaning for all that are participating. Please know my heart is that we would always worship God, but even in doing so there are things we can do to help new people join us in our adoration of Him. Thanks again for your comment.

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 @ 5:49 PM CST

Richard Reising

Craig - first and foremost, my heart truly goes out to you for the pain and suffering your family has endured. I am so sorry that this happened. I am so sorry it was handled poorly. I am so sorry that you did not receive the support you needed. While you have made some very strong points about the level of unhealth that many churches have fallen to, I have to hope and pray that it is not as universal as you see it. I have the honor and privilege of working with churches - both mini and mega - who have such a heart for God and love for people that I know they aren't driven by the motives you suggest. And yet, I know there are some that are. My prayer for you is that you don't give up on the church and that you'll allow God to fully heal your heart for what you've been through. I know from my end I will continue to challenge churches to be better at what they do and also to guard their hearts with all diligence, because there is no such thing as a healthy move of God borne out of the wrong motives. As for revival, I get to see it all the time when churches we work with win thousands of people to Christ. It may not entail tent meetings, from times gone by, but it does entail true conversions of people lost and now found by Christ. Thank you for your challenge to us. May we all have a pure heart to see people connected by Christ and never put our methods above the message.

Posted on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 @ 5:53 PM CST

Michael

I too am brought here from the starbucks video. Awesome job by the way, I found it very refreshing and challenging. It’s truly a reflection opportunity to rethink the things we do in church.

I’ve spent some time reading through all the comments in this thread and I found them to be very thoughtful, very insightful, and very helpful to understand both sides. However, I can just wonder, why can’t both side coexist?

It’s been brought up several times that Christians are to go out to the world and preach the gospel, and make disciples. I think that’s true, but I’d like to think a next step further. If I do go out, make some relationships with non-believers; and try to explain the gospel to them, and if they do accept Jesus as their saviour, I still have to bring them to church, and they still need milk; but to be honest, how many people in the church in reality, have the opportunity/ability to do that? The majority of church goers still rely on “bringing them to church” to spread the gospel to them. And when they do, what happen next? I’m not sure they have experienced this or not, but I have.

Think about this. If you have a family member, say your old age father, to whom you have been trying very hard spread the gospel. After a difficult persuasion he finally agreed to come to church with you. But the first time he sit down at a church, the speaker literally yelled to the congregations, saying something like “look me in the eye, you’re a sinner. You have no hope but in Jesus! REPENT! REPENT NOW!” And your beloved father is so offended that he wouldn’t return to church for years. What would you feel? How about your coworker? You’ve built a good relationship with him, and after slowly introducing how wonderful your church was, and inviting many times, he finally agreed to come to a youth group. That night a guess speaker came and talked about something so irrelevant that even an enthusiastic Christian would yawn. He never returned to church even after many subsequent invites.

I understand many people enjoy the deep conviction with God, and enjoy the traditional hymns, but to start labelling anything other than your traditions are “watered down gospel”, “seeker-friend”, need to be shut down, etc, seems a bit too much. God created people with uniqueness and with many gifts and styles, can different churches have different styles? Can those who enjoys the deep religious traditions goes to a traditional church while those who needs simple message goes to one that welcomes them? Nobody says every church needs to have a culturally relevant style, but just some, and can’t those churches who wanted to reach those group of people be allowed to do so? I agree with Richard that the style and the message itself are different things. As long as the message is doctrinally correct, I think the style can be adjusted.

I’m glad RIchard is doing this and serving the churches in this area, and I’m also glad people with a different view posts their opinions here. They’re very much needed to keep things in check and balance. I’m even more glad Richard accepts the comments in order to maintain accuracy. That’s an action of a big man with a big heart. Please keep doing this, and may God continue to bless your work.

Posted on Tue, Jan 10, 2012 @ 2:14 AM CST

Nick

I think this video is relevant:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2zvqQ1w-Os

Also remember that God and His Word are transcendent. It is a characteristic of His that cannot be broken. He transcends time, space, race, language, and culture. There is no need to make the word "culturally relevant" if God is the One who opens ears and regenerates hearts. Preach what the Bible says and the Spirit will blow where the Spirit blows and lives will be transformed. Many Christians love the saying, "God must increase and I must decrease." If you believe that God regenerates and converts souls (as the Bible teaches) then who are we to think that we have any role in improving upon His Word. How can we improve upon His methods? Does God need us to make it culturally relevant to reach His people? If we don't do this will God's plan to save His sheep fail? As humans we tend to make ourselves far more important and bigger than we really are. God doesn't need us. He chooses to use us. We are called to live faithful lives and share the gospel. The rest? All God. I urge you to resist tendencies to increase your own role and powers. WE MUST DECREASE. GOD MUST INCREASE! The Bible teaches of a God far greater than one who is limited by cultural shifts or who needs our help to reach people in this current culture. Our concern should be to strengthen our relationship with God that we have already. We should be preaching and teaching and organizing our church services for the believers. We should not be concerned with offending or upsetting non-believers. We should be concerned with offending God! In fact, the Bible teaches that the gospel IS offensive to non-believers. It is foolishness to non-believers. If your teaching and preaching is not foolishness or offensive to non-believers than perhaps what you are teaching and preaching isn't the gospel any longer. Obviously, those who are called and regenerated by the Spirit will embrace the gospel so there is definitely room for that to occur. But, for the most part, Biblical preaching should make sinners (particularly unrepentant and unregenerate sinners) uncomfortable in their seats.

This post turned out to be longer than I was thinking. I do apologize. But now I shall hold my peace.

Posted on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 @ 2:15 AM CST

Richard Reising

Dear Nick,
Thanks for your feedback. Let's just say wholeheartedly, I think we'd both get a long really well. We both love Christ, we both want to see him increase and we both think it's not about us. So I'll just tell you about the two places in your comment where I don't necessarily agree with you. Number one, you implied that we shouldn't try and help people understand God's Word. And yet throughout Scripture we see that Jesus and other disciples work to contextualize God's Word with whom they were speaking to. They used culturally relevant analogies of their day, such as shepherding or farming analogies, to convey their point. The challenge is that in our culture, shepherding and farming are foreign to most people. Whereas you would think God would not allow us to contextualize such stories for people today, I would think such content would help. As a matter fact, it helped me. It helped me make the decision to come to know Christ when someone deconstructed the King James English I could not follow and helped me to understand Scripture. I am grateful for the labor of love they showed me and I don't think they were making it all about them, they were making it all about God. Therefore, I think we can help contextualize God's Word without upsetting God or pursuing an act of pride in any way. The other thing I would challenge, simply because I see Paul challenge it, is the notion that we are to disregard non believers in our church services. In 1 Corinthians 14:23-25, he very clearly challenges the church leaders to consider how their behavior would affect a non believer who was present. If Paul felt it worthy of consideration I think it would be improper of us to not follow likewise. I love God's Word and He is Holy and Righteous. I also love people and I believe that the ministry God has given us, very clearly, is the ministry of reconciliation which is to bring people back to God. I pray that you're extremely successful in your ministry and we will continue to do everything we can to help ministers reconcile the lost with Christ—even if that means providing the needed context to help a bunch of city folk understand a farming analogy. The end result should glorify God by exalting His Word and helping this who don't understand come to the full knowledge of Christ.

Blessings,
Richard

Posted on Mon, Jul 16, 2012 @ 9:51 AM CST

Christine Duckhorn

Amazing blog, amazing comments. But shortly said:
You are not able to non-communicate or to "not marketing". You do. Church do. Every time, we worship or pray, every flyer, every invitation, every service is marketing, even the look & feel of the rooms and the building itself is marketing - one way or the other. The only question is: Leads our marketing to God, faith, new believers or leads it to run from church and churchgoers as fast as one can run? And if it is the last, what mostly is the case, how can we change this without changing the message!

Posted on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 @ 6:36 AM CST

Richard Reising

Huge thanks for the encouragement Christine! I would love to answer your question, and any other questions you may have. However, I'm not sure I understand exactly what it is that you're asking in your question listed above. Do you mind restating the question and posting it in a new comment? Like I said, I'm looking forward to answering your question and just want make sure I understand exactly what you're looking for.
Thanks much!

Posted on Fri, Dec 21, 2012 @ 3:54 PM CST

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