Monday, May 18, 2009

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Appealing to Selfishness?

selfish2A few days ago I was listening to a Christian radio station.  During one of the breaks between songs the DJ read something about building relationships with people.  One of the things he mentioned was that people are by nature selfish.  Therefore, if we want to build a good relationship with them then we need to appeal to their desires and interests; we must center the conversation around them.  He continued reading the list naming several good qualities as long as vices and how we must respond to them.  At the very end he said by doing these things we will have influenced them for God. 

Are we really influencing people for God if we cater to their sinfulness and “build a relationship” based upon this premise?  This question extends far beyond the assertions of this Christian DJ.  This question is crucial to our methodology of outreach.  We know that people like sex and violence…so should the church have an MMA night or send fliers heralding “Learn Great Sex”? 

Consider Jim.  Jim is ridiculously selfish (like most of us).  We send a team from our church to canvas our neighborhood.  A team stops at Jim’s house.  We ask Jim why he does not come to church and we ask what it would take to get him to church.  We find that Jim is not the only one that has these problems with the church.  His suggestions seem to resonate with many of the unbelievers in our area.  Here are his suggestions:

  1. I hate long sermons; give me 20 minutes maximum.
  2. I don’t like boring songs but I also don’t like repetitious cheesy love song either.
  3. Never ask me for money; I can stay home and listen to TV preacher’s do that.
  4. I want people to be friendly but not overly desperate and acknowledging me in front of everyone else.  Notice me but not too much.
  5. If I have to walk too far or park in a cramped space just forget me coming.  I face traffic to get to work on Monday, I don’t want to do the same on Sunday.

These are his suggestions.  So, what is the church to do with them?  Do we say, “well he’s a lost guy and lost people are not to dictate what we do in the church”?  Or, do we say, “he’s a lost guy and if we want to reach him then we need to reach him where he is at”? 

What did Jesus do?  What did the New Testament church do?  If you assume this is an easy answer then you probably have not thought it out well enough.  If you are a “lost people don’t dictate the church” then try arguing from the other side.  Same thing if your not that guy.  



  1. Not didn't give your opinion! That is a hard one.

    I do think we should listen to the people we are trying to serve to some degree. We do need to address parking problems etc.We don't want to make it more difficult than it already is to come to church. ie I have often wondered why churches have their contemporary services early in the morning when most college students don't get up until 11!

    Jesus went where the people were. Paul often did too-(for evangelism)-even if it meant going to synogues, or places of discussions--the market place. But, I am thinking that once the churches were established they followed basic things--reading scripture, singing, preaching etc.This was a place for believers to meet, be fed, fellowship and hear the word. I think what is important is that there is life in the church. ..the Holy Spirit is there and at work.

    My oldest son's church (which is mainly 18-32 year olders) has sermons that last over an hour...sometimes and hour and 15 minutes. BUT they keep growing...WHY? I have often wondered why. The preaching is such that I can listen that long without any trouble---my son says he doesn't even notice the is because the spirit of God is present and the preacher has a gift of being able to talk things through using scripture making good application etc --he is not afraid to step on toes, either. And he is not afraid to address any subject---he just has kids leave if the sujbect is not appropriate for their age.And yes he has preached on sex using the Song of Solomon.

    Churches are asking, why are we not attracting the younger generation. This does need some real thinking---Piper's church attracts all ages (I believe). I am going to attend a conference in Durham called Resurgence of the Local Church. This will be in early June--perhaps there will be some answers to this question you pose--Piper will be one of the teachers!

    Actually (yaah, I am rambling), my youngest son (22) attends a church
    that has long sermons too and traditional hymns and they have a great mix of ages--it is a large church and the preacher is Scotish (sinclair Ferguson).

    Actually, what attracts unbelievers to church may be believing friends--people that really care and listen. People that have a dynamic relationship evident in their lives. The church meetings themselves are more for equipping believers to minister (although there is always some application to unbelievers who may be visiting). So perhaps the church (which is after all for Christians to come and worship!!) should be catering to the needs of the believers and if the church is doing a good job of this the needs of unbelievers will be met too (how is that for a good cop out).

    Sooo to sum up, the more I think about it the more I think that church is a place for believers to worship and to be built up for ministering. When Christians go out into the world and minister, unbelievers will be drawn in....Actually that is how I came to know the Lord when I was 16--a believing fellow student and I would talk for hours as we rode the bus to and from school. I went to her church because she kept inviting me to and there I saw a radical difference in the people. God used their obvious joy and delight in God and in life to begin a work in me. OK==better stop here---give us your opinion, will ya??

  2. nannykim,

    Thank you so much for your response. I will give my "answer" shortly enough--but want to generate a few more comments first.

    Let me say for now that I really love your conclusion. If I understand you correctly you are saying that the church is for believers but it should be understandable for unbelievers. When the church does its job of equipping believers they go out into the field to reach unbelievers. The church gathering equips the church to be the church in the world.

    Also, concerning that conference in Durham. I would love to go to that. Sounds amazing.

  3. yes , I think your second paragraph in the comments is really good.

  4. Its a trick question! The thing is, what on earth gave the canvassing team the idea that the way to make disciples is to invite people to church? Why would a non-believer want to come to church in the first place? We must be able to answer that first - those secondary matters are just excuses.



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