*Italics are quotes
- Church planters who want to develop a culture of reaching the lost in their ministry.
- Pastors, student ministers and church members who are open to changing their methods in order to more effectively reach people for Christ.
One of the things we are most interested in is how easy we are making it for our attendees to invite guests. Andy Stanley’s greatest win is not JUST when a non-believer comes to the service, but when they invite a friend to join them the second time they come. Here are some ways to make that happen.
Tearing Down Barriers
When most people visit church, this is what subtly gets communicated: Once you start believing and behaving like us, you are welcome to join us. Stanley suggests that the church is most appealing when the message of grace is most apparent. Everyone in the church building either was a mess, is a mess, or [is] one dumb decision away from becoming a mess. Andy Stanley is suggesting that we create churches that not only say “come as you are” but mean it with the way that we treat outsiders. Churches shouldn’t do anything that makes it unnecessarily difficult for people who are turning to God. It is already hard enough to accept the hard truths of sin and the gospel; our environments should not create extra barriers to cross. So, let’s rid our churches of anything that makes it difficult for those who are turning to God. No perfect people allowed!
Stanley said, “we decided early on that we wanted our presentations to be outstanding at every level of the organization.” The presentation is what makes information interesting. If it’s going to stick, it’s got to be engaging.
Truth isn’t helpful if no one understands or remembers it. If an audience doesn’t understand how content interfaces with their lives, it’s just not all that interesting. We must ask ourselves, will the audience find it useful? “While all Scripture is equally inspired, it’s not all equally applicable.” Since we have to pick and choose our content anyway, why not pick and choose the passages and principles that are most appropriate for specific audiences? Simply preaching truth is not enough. We must preach the truth in practical, engaging and memorable ways.
Teaching for Life Change
Andy Stanley stresses teaching for life change. Our messages and lesson preparations are not complete until we know what we want our audiences to do with what they are about to hear.
Stanley emphasizes the importance of keeping newcomers in mind in teaching. Andy Stanley says, my approach is to entice the audience to follow me into one passage of Scripture with the promise that the text is either going to answer a question they’ve been asking, solve a mystery they’ve been puzzled over, or resolve a tension they’ve been carrying. He encourages us to choose one passage and stay with it until everybody gets it. Make it so interesting that your audience wants to go home and read it again on their own. Make it so clear that when they do, they understand it, and they keep reading! Once they are thoroughly embroiled with the passage, I take one carefully crafted statement that emerges from the point of the text and do everything in my power to make it stick.
Adults learn on a need-to-know basis. First, they are confronted with what they don’t know but need to know and they become extraordinarily teachable. A solider is going to pay much closer attention to a gun loading demonstration than an accountant.Addressing practical issues helps them be motivated to dig into scripture and listen intently during messages.
Creating Irresistible Environments
The environment you create in your church is vitally important for attracting and retaining the unchurched. The sermon begins in the parking lot. By the time I stand up to deliver what is traditionally considered the message, everybody in our audience has already received a dozen or more messages. Imagine yourself as a new person with no idea what to expect at a church. Everything from the building, greeters, temperature, refreshments, bathrooms, children’s ministries and overall atmosphere play into creating a comfortable environment.
The problem is that if you have been attending your church for a while you have become so accustomed to how things are you no longer see your group from a new person’s eyes.Stanley’s goal is to make our environments so irresistible that even people who don’t buy our theology would want to come back and participate. Every one of your ministry environments is being evaluated every week by visitors, so it should be evaluated by you as well.
An uncomfortable setting makes people uncomfortable. Every physical setting communicates something. There are no neutral settings. Dirty says, “You weren’t worth cleaning up for. Clean, safe, comfortable and organized says we care and we take what we do seriously. The desire for beauty and order are written into the human fabric because they reflect attributes of our savior. With the creator on our side, we should create the most irresistible environments on earth.
Ultimately, our goal on the weekend is to create a setting so appealing, a presentation so engaging, and content so helpful that unchurched people would not only want to come back the following week, but that they would be both comfortable and motivated to invite a friend. For some of us, for this to happen we have to undergo some serious changes because your current template is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently getting. You can’t keep the same models and methods and expect different results. Stanley encourages us to marry your mission, date your model a fall in love with your vision. Are you willing to change your model to see your vision of reaching people realized? As Craig Groeschel said, “To reach people no one else is reaching, we must do things no one else is doing.” Are you willing to do what no one is doing so you can reach those whom no one is reaching? I hope you are. Are you willing to read this book to learn how to more effectively engage this lost generation? I hope you will.