Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Really, another, new, non-church church in my county?

My fair county has a population of about 70,000. It has several cities, the largest is about 15,000. It is mostly rural, blue collar, and ex-urban. It is decidedly un-avant guarde, traditional, uncool.

There are plenty of churches in my county. If I turn left out of my driveway on Sunday, withing three miles (I live in the country) I have three Baptist churches to choose from without making a turn. The church from which I retired back in November was, still is, in a wonderful town of 7,700 or so great folks with a few grouches. Within walking distance of my old red brick, steepled church is: an independent non-denominational church, United Methodist, Church of Christ, and two independent Baptist churches. A short drive gets you to the Presbyterian church, yet another Baptist church, a black Baptist church, yet another independent Baptist church.

We're churched around here.

But, as one North American Mission Board church planter type declared a few years ago at an associational meeting, "You can't have too many churches."

Sure you can.

My SBC church planting colleagues used to appear at associational meetings to share their vision of a "new work" a "radically different" type of church that the county needed, a church that would appeal to folks that we middle-aged, out of touch yahoos could never reach.

Maybe so. I could never quite get past their proposed church planting budget of $300,000 or so which included what they said would be "average" pay for the senior pastor. The figure was above that of most of the pastors of the association. Well...whaddoiknow anyway about 21st century church planting?

I'm looking at slick mailouts for "a new exciting church" in my county. Launch date this coming Sunday. I'm free. I'm curious. But I will probably not make it.

The church name doesn't reveal anything. I'll give you a hint - it's not Calvary, Emmanuel, or Corinth. Think "Lifeway" (already one with that name in my county) or "FreshTouch" or "DynaLife."

There is no denominational affiliation, although the education of the 'lead' pastor is at a low-key pentecostal institution. I emailed him, a young, non-goateed twentysomething and asked about that. He kindly replied and offered a network affiliation. Nope, not Acts29. I surmise that the network formula is being followed. The marketing is for a "Grand Opening Worship Experience." 

The statement of belief completely orthodox although heavily slicked up. I'm wondering what the Apostle's Creed or New Hampshire Baptist Confession would sound like all slicked up. Instead of "Declaration of Faith" you'd have "Here's Where We're At"?

I hope that I have achieved old codger status while still retaining some grace and I try not to be an irascible curmudgeon more than a few hours a week. This is one of those hours.

I'm not sure where this sort of thing will be fifty years from now. Will churches have to be cool to survive? I don't know. 

I'm for anyone who preaches Jesus and I wish them well and I take it that I'm not the target group for this church anyway. I'm just wondering at what point marketing stops being a tool and becomes a liability.



Jon L. Estes said...

Good post. Let's not overlook those SBC affiliated (meant loosely except for our CP dollars) multi-campus churches springing up all around our communities. Not sure what to think about them. If they can reach what we can't or won't let 'em. If they are fishing in my well stocked pond for their success, hang 'em.


John Notestein said...

Whenever I see new churches with slick marketing campaigns, I start to wonder what kind of marketing Paul did. As far as I can tell, he just went to the market, then set up his tent shop and told people about Jesus. Whoever was within earshot got to hear the good news. I doubt if he had a nice building with a coffee bar ser up in it. Sometimes I think we doubt the power of God to speak to people's heart through the proclamation of the word to people where they are. Instead we seem to need to lure them into the 'gospel trap' and wow them, as well as meet their felt needs.

I think most of this comes from years of success being measured by numbers (attendees, baptisms, new members, etc). Maybe we should stop counting and treat people like people and not numbers. It may be a slower process, but real discipleship isn't real quick. Jesus had His disciples for 3 years pretty much 24/7 and He disn't use slick brochures either.

Anonymous said...

The only people these churches attract are nominal church goers who are bored with their current church. Truly "unchurched" folks think these slick, cool churches are nonsense.