If you die tonight do you know where you spend eternity?
Not really a conversation opener is it?
Unfortunately I’ve seen too many Church outreach initiatives that rely on canvassing neighborhoods with the goal of asking this exact question. I don’t think it’s effective and it’s time that Evangelical churches give the boot to the hard sell.
Our approach needs a make over here’s why.
We live in a Do-Not-Call Culture
Any unexpected knock at my door generates an immediate response of “Who is that and why are they bothering me?” and I don’t think I’m alone. This face-to-face equivalent of a cold call immediately puts most people in a defensive position that doesn’t lend itself to a warm introduction.
While our intentions are good we haven’t earned the right to be standing there. That right is only earned when you selflessly serve someone or they’ve previously expressed interest. In the absence of these prerequisites you are a nuisance not an evangelist.
Let’s concentrate on meeting people on more neutral ground.
Hard selling isn’t helping
We’ve all been there. That time when you are walking into the mall and someone sticks a track in our hand and begins asking us about our spiritual condition. I’m very comfortable and open with my faith and even I find that off-putting.
That moment is when we confuse the introduction with closing the deal.
Don’t sell me something when I haven’t even bought the first something. Don’t sell when I haven’t really even come into your shop. Don’t sell me the bigger picture when I haven’t even bought the handshake. –Chris Brogan
Chris was using this as a lesson in social media marketing but the principle is universal. At our Church it is expressed as “Earn the right to be heard”. If I can meet a physical need then I might create an opportunity to meet a spiritual need. What Churches need to be creating are these opportunities to introduce ourselves.
What do these opportunities look like? (warning out of the box thinking may be required)
- Feed them and they will come – Set up a grill in a neighborhood or housing project and start handing out free hamburgers and hot dogs. Our church is in it’s 2nd year of our Grill Ministry and that plume of smoke is one of our most effective outreach methods. We are simply trying to say Hi, here’s a hamburger. We’ve got Frisbees and bracelets for kids and if you are interested we have Bibles and information about our church. The doors that we have seen God open have been tremendous.
- Dog Parks – Set up at a local dog park on a Saturday morning and hand out bottles of water and dog treats or toys. Just be there, be kind, be open. Be nice to their dog and you’ve earned a lot of good will.
- Cold Water – This time of year cold water goes a long way. Getting some water bottles printed with your info and setup on Bike Trails & Parking Lots. Heck this is almost Biblical
- Rake Leaves, Mow Yards, Paint Schools, setup Food Pantries, run Soup Kitchens, collect blankets, change the oil in cars… etc…
The opportunities are endless but they all require the same plan.
- Be Kind, Be Helpful
- Don’t be focused on closing the deal
A few of you will find this thinking heretical because the focus isn’t solely on sharing the gospel. What I’ve found is that if you make yourself helpful and available God will provide many experiences for you to share the Gospel of Christ in all of these situations. The key is being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and really listening with loving ears when you find someone hurting or searching.
Meet people where they are. Physically, Emotionally, & Spiritually.
Finding our identity in Love
The final element of this introduction approach is understanding who you are so you can actually make an introduction.
What is your Church about? Why does it exist? What makes it different?
The last question is the real deal maker or breaker. What sets your Church apart from the world? What sets your Church apart from quasi-charitable socialization opportunity?
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” – John 13:34-35
Did you catch that? The way that all men will know you are a servant of a living God is by demonstrating love. Your Love-in-action is the only thing that sets you apart.
That is your introduction. “Hi I’m Church ABC and here is how we love others”.
The Gospel of Christ and making disciples is still our only mission but we’ve forgotten how to simply say Hi. Let’s earn the right to be heard.
From the Book of James-
“If people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing. Can faith like that save them? A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,” but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing. In the same way, faith by itself—that does nothing—is dead.” – James 2:14-17