Good Questions Have Groups Talking

A group of 10 that doubles every 18 months will reach 1000 people for God in 10 years.

 

Church Growth Strategy:
Our Reachable Nation
by Josh Hunt www.joshhunt.com

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It is not unusual for me to get a solicitation in the mail to purchase a tape series called The Power of Prayer. What struck me as odd was the vendor. I knew them to be a source of secular self-help/ success/ sales/ personal development tapes. Why were they marketing a tape series on prayer on the cover of their monthly catalogue? What did they know about the secular American that I had missed?

Perhaps they had read the 1991 Newsweek cover story called "Talking to God" in which the writer announced, "This week, if you believe at all in opinion surveys, more of us will pray than will go to work, or exercise, or have sexual relations."(1) (91% of American women and 85% of American men pray. One in five atheists pray daily!(2)) Perhaps they were familiar with the work of Patterson and Kim that revealed that 90% of Americans believed in God.(3) Maybe the watched the news and noticed that every time there is a tragedy people talk openly about crying out to God.

Contrary to much of the evangelical media hype on the secularization of America, we live in a very God-conscience country. Barna found that 7% of the unchurched plan to visit a church this year.(4) Another 33 percent say they would consider returning to church. They are waiting for a friend to ask or for a top quality and interesting offering from a church. Forty percent of the unchurched population are open to returning to church this year! Two thirds of the unchurched said religion was either very important or somewhat important to them.(5) Most unchurched have attended church regularly in the past. "Eighty five percent of all unchurched adults have had a prolonged period of time during which they consistently attended a church."(6)

Who are these people? William Hendricks interviewed sixteen of them and told their stories in the must-read book, Exit Interviews (Moody, 1993). Here is what he found out about those who have left the church:(7)

  • They are not saying they want to leave the faith.
  • They are not saying they want to leave the church.
  •  

I say it again: we live in a culture radically exposed to Christianity and interested in God. Evangelism ought to be shooting fish in a barrel. Two questions:

Why aren't we reaching them?

  • What can we do about it?

The answer to the first question is as easy as it is unsettling. People came looking for God in our churches and didn't find him. Three-fourths of unchurched Americans describe having a meaningful relationship with God either very important or somewhat important.(8) Yet, two-thirds of people who attend church say they do not experience God in their worship services on a regular basis.(9) "What they typically get is an experience with people who talk about and hope to interact with God."(10) It is not that they are not interested. They have come asking. We have failed to deliver. We are like a restaurant where hungry people came looking for food and walked away frustrated and still hungry.

What is the problem? Boredom. Here is what Hendricks's study revealed: "Sermons were not very popular among this crowd [who had left the church]. At best, sermons were tolerated; at worst, they were infuriated. Perhaps the most common complaint was that worship services were boring. It was not that these gatherings were not interesting; they were not worshipful."(11)

The number one problem in most Sunday Schools is boredom. It is not bad theology or poor organization. It is the carefully disguised yawns. A survey done by ministry currents attributed the decline of Baby Boomers attending church to the fact that church is "irrelevant to daily life."(12)

This is not an appeal to be entertaining in our teaching. It is an appeal to be interesting. It is an admonition to be obedient to Titus 2:10, ". . . so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." We have failed to make the teaching of our Lord attractive. Consequently, we have lost a culture that is deeply interested in God, prayer and Christianity.

As a remedy, let me suggest three things:

  • Reposition: we must tell them church not like they think.
  • Deliver: We must make sure church is not like they think. We must make every effort to make the gospel attractive to outsiders
  • Love: If we want them to stay, we must love them as a friend.

Reposition

In some ways, if we were actually trying to reach a culture that was ignorant of Christianity, things would be easier. We are not trying to reach a culture that does not know us.

Eighty-five percent have been here many times. There is a reason they stay away. Lee Strobel warns, "Boomers may have come in the church's front door, checked out what was going on, and are now exiting the back door once more." (13)We must persuade them church is not like they think. To mis-quote a car commercial, "This is not your daddy's Oldsmobile Baptist Church." We must be willing to say, "I know your have had a bad experience at church. I know you were hurt. I understand you are turned off by the pettiness, hypocrisy and power-plays. But it is not all that way. Come and see. It will be different."

Deliver

After having promised a better church than people have experienced, we had better deliver. If not, we become part of the problem and play to the enemy's hand. We don't have to be perfect. In fact, an important part of what people are looking for is a place where people can admit they are sinners. Many unchurched don't feel qualified to come to church because it does not feel to them like a place where sinners are welcome. If feels like a club for nice people who have it all together. This is why the AA movement is so popular. People hunger for a place where they can come and say, "Hello, my name is Bob and I am a sinner."

The music and the preaching and the teaching don't have to be perfect either. I like to say you don't have to be Chuck Swindoll to grow a class. But people do want to experience God. People need to experience God when we teach, when we sing, and when we pray. It ought to be true of us: After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. Acts 4:31

Love

Delivering quality teaching and preaching and music is not enough. It is not even enough that people sense God's presence when they come to church. People hunger for love. If we want to change from a Teflon church to a Velcro church, we must love people. They hunger for us to open our homes and have them in and eat with them and play with them and enjoy life with them. They want to experience God's presence in our worship services, God's truth in our teaching and God's love in our fellowship. They want us to represent God to them (II Corinthians 5:20). They want us to accept them the way God accepts them: in spite of and aware of their sins.

Good fishermen know that they key to fishing is understanding the fish. Understanding where they eat, what they eat, and when they eat. If we would be effective at reaching this culture, we need to understand this culture. We need to treat the unchurched as they are: people who are interested in prayer, interested in God, and with some knowledge of the faith. Some of them are unbelievers who need to be invited to the faith. Others are believers who need to be gently encouraged back into the family.

20 Quesitons


  1. What have your put into practice from what we have discussed in previous weeks. Has this study and this group altered the trajectory of your ministry at all? Be specific.
  2. What things are on your "intend to do but haven’t gotten around to yet," list?
  3. What has blocked you from getting to these things? Is there any way that we could help?
  4. Which of the statistics in this chapter were you the most surprised by?
  5. Where there any statements in this chapter you find yourself disagreeing with?
  6. Josh says growing a church is easy. On what does he base this?
  7. If growing a church is easy, why are so few churches growing?
  8. If Christianity is as prevalent in the culture as this chapter suggests, why does it feel like it is so secular?
  9. In what ways is society becoming more secular?
  10. What evidence are you aware of concerning the prevalence of Christianity is our culture? How could you have strengthened what Josh had to say in this chapter?
  11. How can we tap into society’s thirst for God?
  12. What do you think is the more effective strategy, to go after the most secular element of society, go after those who are most Christian in their world view, or just take anyone who comes?
  13. How could people be up on God but down on church?
  14. Tell me about someone you know who seems spiritually interested but uninterested in church.
  15. Do you think the bad reputation that church has is deserved?
  16. As a generalization, what are some of the church’s biggest weaknesses?
  17. What could we do to become more attractive to people who are open to God, but turned off to church?
  18. How do we get the attention of people who have had a bad experience with church?
  19. How would the Double Your Class plan fit into this?
  20. Name one thing that you think you ought to change about your ministry as a result of this study.

1. Kenneth L. Woodward, et al., "Talking to God," Newsweek, January 6, 1992, p. 39.

2. Ibid.

3. James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth (New York: Prentice Hall, 1991), p. 203.

4. George Barna, Evangelism that Works (Ventura, California: Regal, 1995), p. 68.

5. Ibid, page 52.

6. Ibid, page 50.

7. William Hendricks, Exit Interviews, (Chicago: Moody, 1993), p. 258.

8. George Barna, Evangelism that Works (Ventura, California: Regal, 1995), page 57.

9. Ibid, page 58.

10. Ibid, page 58.

11. William Hendricks, Exit Interviews, (Chicago: Moody, 1993), p. 260.

12. "The Case of the Missing Boomers," Ministry Currents, January - March 1992, 1.

13. Lee Strobel Inside the Minds of Unchurched Harry and Mary, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1993) p. 81.

 

 

How to double a group

You can double a class in two years or less by inviting every member and every prospect to every fellowship every month.