Anti-Consumerism: Worst Church Outreach Strategy Ever?

church sign stole mowerIn yesterday’s post, we looked at how some churches are trying to attract people and asked the question:

Are churches essentially bait-and-switching people when they say “come to our church because of what is in it for you” to get people in the door and then turn around and say, “Christianity is not about what’s in it or you but it’s about loving, serving, sacrificing, and giving to others?”

As you might expect, churches that are appealing to the “felt needs” of the people in their community don’t view it that way.

It just so happened that at the same time I was reading The Divine Commodity (affiliate link), my church small group was discussing a video series by Pastor Andy Stanley about sharing your faith with others called “Go Fish.”  In one of the videos Andy Stanley makes the case that everyone initially follows Jesus because of what’s in it for them.

If you are a Christian, do you remember your initial motive for following Jesus?

  • Was it because you were afraid of hell?
  • Was it because you want to live forever in a place where there is no more pain, suffering, illness, and violence?
  • Was it because you were addicted to drugs or alcohol and had nowhere else to turn?
  • Was it because your marriage was in the ditch and only divine intervention could save it?
  • Was it because you lost a loved one and looked to God to make sense of it.

Guess what? Those are all selfish motives.

Part of being a follower of Jesus is what the Bible calls “sanctification,” that is the process through which God takes our screwed-up, self-centered, conniving, manipulative, egotistical selves and begins to transform us into loving, joyful, kind, selfless people like Jesus.

Did you catch that?  It’s a process.

Pastor Rick Warren once explained it this way.

The very first words of Jesus that He says to His disciples are “Come and see.” Now that’s the entry point for faith. What is the commitment level of “Come and see?” Nothing. Just show up. Sit in the back. Don’t sing anything, say anything, sacrifice anything. Just show up. But Jesus never left them there.

And from “Come and see,” He took them through consistent steps. And all through the three and a half years of ministry, he is turning up the heat. And as they begin to follow Him, He starts saying, “You’re my disciple if…” And He redefines commitment. “You’re my disciple if you love one another.” “You’re my disciple if you bear fruit.” “You’re my disciple if you take up your cross, deny yourself, and follow Me.” And on and on, He’s turning up the heat.

In those days, nobody took up a cross unless the Romans were going to nail him to it. So He’s saying, “Come and die.” There’s a huge difference in commitment between “Come and see” and “Come and die.” He doesn’t say “Come and die” at the very first. He takes three years into a relationship with them. And He’s moving them.

(2008 Exponential Conference, transcript by Kent Shaffer at

Could you imagine a church going with “Come die with us!” as the slogan for their outreach campaign?

Can you say… Worst. Outreach. Strategy. Ever.

I mean nobody could be so clueless…

church sign fear thee lord

or callous…

church sign loser

to think the way to draw a person to Christ…

church sign facebook

is to tell them they first need to sacrifice…

church sign live for jesus

for a God they don’t even know…

church sign ill be back


If you believe God really transforms lives, then shouldn’t you try to reach people where THEY are rather than where YOU are?

If it sounds like I’m saying exactly the opposite of what I said yesterday, well I am… sort of. I’ll clarify that in the final post in this series tomorrow.  But for now I’d like to hear what you think about this…

If our churches are going to reach self-centered consumers “where they’re at,” don’t we have to appeal to their selfish desires?

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