Here’s something else you should know. Unchurched, unbelieving people are attracted to communicators who have here’s what to do next tacked on the end of their messages. This is true even when they don’t agree with or understand the premise of what we are talking about. Either way, they like it when we give ‘em something to do. Here’s why.
And this is very important.
People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest. Including your spouse. They are on happiness quests. As long as you are dishing out truth with no here’s the difference it will make tacked on the end, you will be perceived as irrelevant by most of the people in your church, student ministry, or home Bible study. You may be spot-on theologically, like the teachers of the law in Jesus’ day, but you will not be perceived as one who teaches with authority. Worse, nobody is going to want to listen to you.
Now, that may be discouraging. Especially the fact that you are one of the few who is actually on a quest for truth. And, yes, it is unfortunate that people aren’t more like you in that regard. But that’s the way it is. It’s pointless to resist. If you try, you will end up with a little congregation of truth seekers who consider themselves superior to all the other Christians in the community. But at the end of the day, you won’t make an iota of a difference in this world. And your kids … more than likely your kids, are going to confuse your church with the church, and once they are out of your house, they probably won’t visit the church house. Then one day they will show up in a church like mine and want to get baptized again because they won’t be sure the first one took. And I’ll be happy to pastor your kids. But I would rather you face the reality of the world we live in and adjust your sails. Culture is like the wind. You can’t stop it. You shouldn’t spit in it. But, if like a good sailor you will adjust your sails, you can harness the winds of culture to take your audience where they need to go. If people are more interested in being happy, then play to that. Jesus did.
You’ve studied the Sermon on the Mount. Surely you know that the term Jesus uses over and over in the opening lines of what was perhaps his earliest sermon can be (some say should be) translated happy. But even if you are more comfortable with the term blessed, think about what Jesus does at the beginning of his message. Who doesn’t want to be blessed? Favored? Fortunate? He plays to their human nature, their desire for happiness. Their I-wanna-be-blessed quest. And then, one by one, he challenges their most basic assumptions about … well, about everything! Even the way they prayed. Jesus’ instructions to his first-century audience were so specific. So extreme. We are still wrestling with them today. Wrestling with. That means we don’t actually do them, we just talk about ‘em a lot.
Stanley, A. (2012). Deep and wide: creating churches unchurched people love to attend. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.