FOMO: chasing (but not living) the dream.

So many opportunities ...

“Are you tired of chasing pretty rainbows?  Are you tired of spinning round and round?”

Those words are the opening lines of a 1975 song entitled “Give Them All to Jesus” by Bo Benson and Phil Johnson.  It ages me to admit that I only had to look up the author.  I’ve had the words memorized for 40 years.

Before we ever heard of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), we were wearing ourselves out chasing rainbows.  Of course, some people in the 60’s and 70’s were chasing rainbows in a different way, but that’s not what I’m talking about!

In last week’s post, I mentioned FOMO. Many of you were already familiar with the term; others got a brief introduction.  In case you missed that you can read it here.

Since writing last week’s post, I have learned some things about the origin of the term FOMO. I happened to hear an interview with the person who coined the term.  When Patrick McGinnis first used the term back in 2004 as a part of a research project with fellow Harvard MBA candidates, he had no idea that FOMO would become cultural vernacular.  He actually thought their first acronym, FOBO (Fear of a Better Option) would be more prevalent and popular.

While FOBO may result in hesitance to commit because something better might come along, FOMO leads to overcommitment because we don’t want to miss out on anything. And while I haven’t done extensive research on the FOMO effect worldwide, I am convinced that Americans have set the bar for FOMO.

We are bombarded with the subtle ideas that opportunities and resources are limited and that our lives will be incomplete if we don’t take advantage of them.  And they are good opportunities.  They are opportunities to learn more, to achieve more, to accomplish more in a shorter time, to live better, to enjoy more family time, to be more efficient and effective, even to be better and more effective followers of Jesus.

That last one is where a lot of us get hooked.  We realize that we haven’t been the best that we can be and we so desperately want to be all that God created us to be. We realize that the time we spend on this planet is short and we want to do God’s will.

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)

It’s that every opportunity thing that gets me.  What if I miss something God sent me?  What if I say no when I should have said yes?  I know I can’t do everything at once, but maybe I can figure out the right sequence.

I have one more post to write on this subject (for now).  In the meantime, let me ask you this: are you working so hard chasing the life for which God created you that you are not able to live it?

Are you working so hard chasing the dream that you are not able to live it? Click To Tweet

099 – Finding a Good Church (and a special announcement) [Podcast]

A listener question and a hiatus

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode (99) I’m finishing a multi-episode series answering questions from a survey I did a few months back with my subscriber list.

Announcement

I’m also announcing that, due to upcoming travel that will have me out of pocket (much of it out of country) for the better part of 6 weeks AND due to a case of overwhelm (my fault for saying yes too often), I’m going to go on podcast hiatus until June 2017.

But don’t bail on me! There will still be a podcast each week, just not new episodes.  I will be reprising some of my earlier content that I think bears repeating.  For some of the newer members of our community, the content may actually be fresh.  For others, maybe you will hear something you didn’t hear the first time around.

During the break, I won’t be ignoring the podcast.   I’ll be recording interviews that will add a new element to the podcast format, bring in new voices, and add increasing value for churches and leaders.

One final note on the schedule: Since the next episode will be the 100th episode, I want to celebrate that milestone with fresh content.  Therefore the hiatus reprise episodes that will begin next week will be episode 99A and following.  Each new episode will release on Friday morning (unless I somehow mess up the auto scheduling while traveling).

Now to the Listener Question

Finding a good church was the survey response by one listener.  Since there was no more detail than that, I don’t know whether this individual is frustrated with a current church or is wanting some tips about finding a church home when either moving into a new community or returning to church life after an extended absence.  I’m going to address it from both standpoints, but I also want pastors and church leaders to consider how this applies to how you respond to unfamiliar faces at your church.

Frustrated

For those frustrated with a current church, I want to point you to a couple of previous episodes where I answered listener questions.

Episode 006 – What can one person do? Teresa asked for, “Practical tips on what one person can do to help realign their church with the Biblical ideal…or how one person can make a difference.”

Episode 014 – How do you stay with a church when it changes? Carmen asked, “How do you stay with a church when it changes?  How do you stay loyal?”

In addition to the answers contained in those two episodes, I would offer the following to the frustrated:

  • There is no perfect church.  Say it out loud with me: THERE IS NO PERFECT CHURCH.
  • Be cautious and gracious in any criticism you offer.
  • The church does not exist to make you happy or to meet your needs, but to share your journey, help you grow in Christ-likeness, and help you discover your unique contribution to the work of the Kingdom of God.
  • Examine yourself and see if you may be projecting onto the church a frustration that is really internal.

 

Seeking

To those who are seeking a church home either because you are in a new community, you are new to faith, or you are ready to come back to church after an extended absence, I offer the following:

  • There is no perfect church.  Say it out loud with me: THERE IS NO PERFECT CHURCH.
  • Visit a church enough times and observe enough variety of activities and ministries to get a true picture of who they are.  If you attend only the Sunday morning worship service, you will not learn much about the church.  Sit in on a Sunday School class (or whatever they call it).  If they have midweek activities, check them out.  Let your kids experience activities related to them.  Spend several weeks in a row with a church before you decide to either engage more deeply or move on to repeat the search with another church.
  • Pay attention to how they treat you as a guest. Were they helpful in answering your questions?  Did you feel welcome?  Did you feel like you had a target on your back?
  • Pay attention to how they treat each other.  Do they seem to enjoy being together?  Do they seem to have genuine concern for one another?
  • Pay attention to how they pray.  Are their prayers limited to praying for the sick or simply praying that God would bless their gathering?  Are they praying for their community and for the world? Is prayer a central part of everything they do?
  • Pay attention to how they engage with the Bible.  Is the Bible central to their worship and small groups?  Are the sermons built around Biblical texts?  Do they give any indication that they doubt the truth or reliability of the Bible?
  • Pay attention to how the members talk about their church.  Are they talking about how God is at work?  Are they talking about ministries?  Do they speak positively about their own experiences?  Do they speak positively about their fellow members?
  • Pay attention to how they talk about other churches in the community?  Do they seem to be in competition?  Are they critical of other churches and other pastors?  Do they have a Kingdom mindset that celebrates the work of God anywhere?
  • Pay attention to how people in the community talk about the church.  Do those who are not members have any impression of the church at all?  Do nonmembers speak positively about the church’s presence in and impact on the community?
  • Can you see yourself not simply attending this church, but serving Jesus alongside this group of people?
  • Do you have a sense that God may be directing you here?
  • Repeat this with me: THERE IS NO PERFECT CHURCH, BUT GOD WANTS ME TO BE A PART OF ONE THAT IS MOVING FORWARD WITH HIM.

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

Physician, heal thyself … from FOMO.

Fear of Missing Out can rob us of the very best opportunities.

I have a confession.  I suffer from one of the most common diseases in our culture.  It is insidious, highly contagious, and terribly debilitating.  You may not have heard of it, but I guarantee you know someone who has it, and chances are high that, if you will closely examine yourself, you will see some symptoms, if not a full-blown case.

Some of the symptoms:

  1. The inability to say “no” to a request or the need to over-explain or apologize when you must say “no” because you feel guilty every time you say it.
  2. A to-do list that gets longer every day, no matter how many things you accomplish because you add two items for every one you check off.
  3. More “back burner” projects than you have burners.
  4. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion because every part of you is reminding you that your pace is not sustainable.
  5. Resentment toward new requests that come (and those who bring them), followed by guilt because you are feeling resentment.
  6. A growing collection of unused or underused productivity and time management tools (either electronic or physical).
  7. The word “busy” shows up in almost every conversation you have.
  8. A day off or a vacation usually involves so many activities that you come back more exhausted than when you left.
  9. Incessant checking of social media, email, or news outlets to be sure you are keeping up with what’s going on in the world.

Do any of those sound familiar?  If so, you may be a FOMO sufferer as well. 

What is FOMO?  Fear Of Missing Out.  Check out how it works with those symptoms:

  1. I can’t say “no.”  They will stop asking or they will be upset with me.  What if God sent them to me and doing this is His will?
  2. There are so many opportunities.  What if I miss the big one?
  3. I know these things are important to do sometime, but there’s so much that has to be done right now.
  4. I’m so overwhelmed that I’m not really enjoying my life, but I’m so deep into it that I can’t stop.
  5. If one more person asks me to do something, I’m going to lose it!  But that is not a good Christian response.  Man, what’s wrong with me?
  6. Maybe this tool, this planner, this course will be “the one” that makes everything fall into place—at least until the next one comes along.
  7. You only Iive once. Life is short.  “Make the most of every opportunity” is Biblical, right?
  8. The only thing worse than a busy day is a boring day.
  9. What if something really important happens and I’m the last to find out?  What if I miss an opportunity because I didn’t know until it was too late?

FEAR Of Missing Out.  Fear is the key word.  Fear most often shows up in “what if” questions.  FOMO can rob us of the very best of life’s opportunities while we are chasing life’s opportunities.    FOMO can distract us from the reality of how much our lives matter to God. There is so much more to say about FOMO because it is a big, big deal.  Stay tuned.

FOMO can rob us of the best of life’s opportunities while we are chasing life’s opportunities. Click To Tweet

Don’t read the comments!

It really serves no purpose.

As a blogger/columnist, I read a lot more than I write.  It’s important that I hear more voices than my own.  It’s also important, perhaps even more so, that I hear voices that come from a different viewpoint.  As much as I like my own opinions and am convinced about my own values, I’ve never really learned much from reading my own stuff.  (Some others might say they have never learned much from reading my stuff either.  That would be really mean of them to say, but they might say it nonetheless).

There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when reading was not interactive.  You picked up a book, magazine, or newspaper and read what was written.  It may have sparked some kind of response or comment, but it took some effort and some time to interact with the author.  You might write a letter to the author (if you could find an address) or a letter to the editor of the periodical.

With the invention of email, interaction became easier and more immediate.  It also added additional risk because you could fire off an email in the heat of the moment, whereas the time taken to handwrite a letter might allow for some calming, perspective, and self-editing before the final draft went in the mail.

With the advent of the blog (originally called a “web log” for something written and posted on the world wide web), authors began inviting readers to interact with them through comments.  And now that blogs can be posted to social media, we are all invited to get social and not only interact with the author, but also interact with other readers and commenters.

And suddenly social media gets really unsociable.

Social media can really become unsociable. Click To Tweet

I feel the necessity to read the comments that are posted on the things I write or share.  If I have invited the interaction (an invitation that is implied on social media), then I should be prepared to respond if necessary.  I will delete comments that I deem snarky, offensive, or sometimes clueless.  And I am entitled to do that on my posts.

Here’s where I mess up time after time: by reading the comments on other people’s posts.  Seriously, I know better!  But sometimes it’s like watching a bad wreck; you just can’t look away once you’ve looked.  And you can’t unsee what you’ve already seen.

I often disagree with the authors, but I tend not to get mad at them.  I get mad at the obnoxious commenters and then I get really mad at the obnoxious commenters who want to attack other commenters!  It would be better if I just wouldn’t read the comments!

Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.”

Proverbs 26:17 says, “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.”

Our lives and opinions matter very little to any online commenter.  Maybe we should pay more attention to the One for whom every part of our lives matters.  I read some of His comments this morning.  How about you?

098 – What are the things we can’t get wrong? [Podcast]

A listener question

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode (98) I’m continuing a multi-episode series answering questions from a survey I did a few months back with my subscriber list.

 

Question: “What are the things we can’t get wrong – the essentials?”

 

 

If you were to ask 100 leaders this question, you would likely get 100 different answers.  Certainly, there would be similarities, but my guess is that no two lists would be identical. Since you asked me, I am assuming you want my answer.

My disclaimer: This is my answer; it is not the answer, nor is it the best answer.

 

A Jesus-focused church

It is my conviction that the #1 thing we can’t get wrong is that our churches must be Jesus-focused.  A Jesus-focused church is a community made up of people who are on-mission to live out the Christ-life:  loving who He loves, obeying what He says, demonstrating His character, and influencing the culture toward Him.

I spent a whole chapter unpacking the idea of the Jesus-focused church in my book Why “Bible Study” Doesn’t Work: The epic failure of evangelicalism’s favorite discipleship method – and how YOUR CHURCH can do something about it.

(Click here to listen to that chapter)

 

A blueprint for a Jesus-focused church

If we are going to build a church building, we would need a good set of plans.  If we are going to build a church, we need a set of plans from the Chief Architect.  To use that metaphor, the things we can’t get wrong – the essentials – would be the foundation and the load-bearing walls.

Foundation

Jesus is building His church (see Matthew 16:13-18).  The foundation of the church is the reality of Jesus Christ – His identity, purpose, completed work on the cross, and current activity in the world.

Load-bearing walls

  1. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) – equipping disciples to live as those who walk in step with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating His character in both attitude and action.
  2. The Great Commandment (Matthew 22:35-40) – loving God by choosing to give Him His rightful place at the center of your existence, so that He receives your complete allegiance and ultimate affection.  We are also to love our neighbors by seeking to be a neighbor to those who need it most.
  3. A New Commandment (John 13:34-35) – loving one another with Jesus-like love demonstrated in the way we live out our lives in community.

 

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

Please pity my busyness!

It makes me look so important

How’s it going? Crazy busy! 

Yep, I’ve said it.  You probably have, too.  It’s the first thing that pops out of our mouths, even when it is not true.

What do you mean it’s not true, blogger boy!  Maybe you are not crazy busy, but I sure am!

I have a theory.  It’s not research-based; it is observational.  If we are all as busy as we claim to be, we would be dropping like flies.  The problem is that we truly are so busy much of the time that we let busyness define us all of the time.  As a result, we ignore and minimize the opportunities we have for renewal and recharging.

We truly ARE so busy MUCH of the time that we let busyness DEFINE us ALL of the time. Click To Tweet

Here’s some research for you.  According to a recent post by Michael Hyatt

We spend a lot of time online.  The average adult spends 20 hours online per week, including time at work.  All of us together send over 200 emails per minute.  Almost 5 billion videos are viewed on Youtube every single day with the average person watching 40 minutes worth.

We spend a lot of time working and going to work.  The average work week is closer to 50 hours than 40.  Unless you use a smartphone for work.  In that case, you are likely to work closer to 70 hours per week. The average round trip commute to work is 47 minutes. 70% of American workers have experienced stress related illnesses. 34% of them think they will burn out on the job within the next two years.

We are tired.  An estimated 50-70 million adults have some sort of sleep disorder.  Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night for maximum effectiveness.  1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.

Our to-do lists are too long. 41% of items on our to-do lists never get accomplished.

Here’s some more research.  According to a recent article from the Harvard Business School, having no life is now considered a status symbol.  Bragging about busyness is often an attempt to prove how valuable we are.  It’s almost like saying, “If I were not around, nothing would ever get done.”  One author has coined the term “Humblebrag” to define a veiled boast hidden within a complaint.  Researchers found that 1 in 10 social media posts by celebrities mentioned how busy they are.

You see, it’s a double-edged sword.  We really are too busy, but we embrace busy as our identity because we think we have to prove our worth by our busyness.  We measure our lives by what we accomplish.  We even try to prove our worth to God by doing as much as we can for Him.

What if there were a better way?

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10). Some translations say, “Be still and know that I am God.”

“O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)

Neither of these verses excuse laziness (something the Bible never condones).  They call for deliberate cessation of activity for the sake of renewal. They call for finding our identity in relationship with God, not activity for God.

God created the world with a certain rhythm of light and dark, work and rest, doing and being.  If we are fighting against that rhythm, we shouldn’t brag about it, nor should we be seeking pity.

I’m as busy as I choose to be. Pray that I’ll make good choices.  I’ll do the same for you.

It’s not too early to start working on your two-minute drill.

Keep the little things from piling up

Yes, I know football season is over.  Baseball season is right around the corner. I will offer my apologies now to any fans of hockey, basketball, soccer, golf, badminton, curling … oh, wait a minute.  When I started thinking of other lesser sports, I got carried away. (Please remember I apologized first).

While I have an appreciation for all sports that do not involve style points and judges, there are really only two professional team sports that I pay much attention to. Besides the fact that I only really pay attention to football and baseball as a fan, those two really have the only useful metaphors that I use as a writer.

That brings me to the two-minute drill. You know how it works.  The offense takes on a whole new look once the two-minute warning has sounded before the end of each half of the game.  The objective is to move the ball  as effectively and quickly as possible in order to score points before time expires.

Teams practice their two-minute drill from the very first part of training camp, in the hopes that they will move like a well-oiled machine when the game is on the line in the playoffs.  Do I need to remind you of how Aaron Rodgers broke the hearts of all of us Cowboys fans just a few weeks ago?

So, maybe it’s time for all of us to work on our two-minute drill.

What’s our two-minute drill? I don’t know what yours looks like, but here’s what it looks like for me.  I have a pretty full life – work, family, ministry, personal interests, dreams.  I don’t spend a lot of time sitting doing nothing.  And as I look around my house, my office, and any other place where I hang out, I can see more things that need doing than I have time to do them.

Little things pile up until they become big things.  To-do lists get longer and longer.  Requests keep coming.  The back burner gets completely overloaded.  Have you been there?  Are you there right now?

Little things pile up until they become big things. Click To Tweet

David Allen, in Getting Things Done, talks about the two-minute rule.  To paraphrase, when you are looking at your lists or considering a request, ask this question: Can it be done in two minutes?  If so, do it!

Many of the things we have listed as tasks are really projects that require multiple steps.  Some of them, however, could honestly be handled in two minutes or less and there is something about getting a few of them done that creates positive momentum and energy. 

What if you devoted 30 minutes a day to complete a batch of two-minute tasks and then devoted the rest of your day to deeper work, deeper conversations, and intense focus?  What might your prayer time look like without all those little distractions?  How might your marriage be strengthened if you were able to spend more focus on conversation and less on little honey-do’s?

Our lives matter to God. It doesn’t even take a full two minutes to celebrate that.

Do you have money problems?

Depends on whether you use it or serve it.

Money, jobs, the economy, economic impact, the working class, the one percent, the national debt – Have any of these been discussed recently?

No, I haven’t missed the discussions; that was a poor attempt at sarcasm.  As a matter of fact, it seems that money often drives all other decisions.  Even the current discussion over a proposed bathroom bill in the Texas Legislature (whoever thought we’d be having this discussion) is often couched in economic impact terms.  How much money will our state lose over businesses and events that will not come to Texas if we demand that people use the restroom that coincides with the gender on their birth certificate?

No, I am not wading into the political waters on this.  That was just an example of how money can be the driver in almost every discussion.

I’ve been pondering the whole money problem since I recently re-read these words of Jesus in Luke 16:13 – “You cannot serve both God and money.”

In considering this statement from Jesus, I’ve come to some conclusions about the relationship between God and money.  These are not in any particular order, except the order in which I thought of them during one of my early morning pondering sessions.

  1. You can serve God without money.  People all over the world, in the deepest poverty, still manage to center their lives around the living out of their faith.
  2. You can serve money without God. People all over the world, no matter their economic status, are driven by the consuming passion to acquire more.
  3. You can use money to serve God.  People all over the world, no matter their economic status, have figured out ways to use the financial resources they have in a way that serves the focus of their faith. Some of them have continued to prosper and their prosperity has resulted in increased generosity and impact for the Kingdom of God.
  4. You cannot use God to serve money. There are certainly charlatans and hucksters who have claimed faith and ministry as a means to line their own pockets.  It may work for awhile.  How long it works is always longer that we think it should be. But a time of reckoning will come.
  5. God is the proper focus and motivation for worship and service. God is not particularly interested in being anyone’s #1 priority.  God’s place is not the first of many, but the Center of all.
  6. Money is a tool to be used in worship and service. It is a neutral object. When an object becomes the focus and motivation, it becomes service to a false god.  One word for that is “idolatry.”
  7. God is to be worshiped and served because we love Him and have come to understand His love for us.
  8. Money is to be used. It is not to be collected and hoarded but used for good and Godly purposes.
  9. God is always good. Always.
  10. Money is good when it is used for its intended purpose.  I was once on the Board of Directors of an independent ministry organization whose stated financial purpose was to rejoice as much in money that they spent in ministry to others as they did in contributions made to their ministry.

I’m not suggesting that a commitment to God will solve all your “money problems.” I am suggesting that a recognition that your life matters to Him can keep you from being enslaved by it.

097 – How do you know when to help people? [Podcast]

Listener question

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode (97) I’m continuing a multi-episode series answering questions from a survey I did a few months back with my subscriber list.

 

Question: “There are so many people out to scam others so how do you know when to help people. I have heard different takes on this but no one wants to be taken so how do you handle this?”

 

 

Issues at hand

Since there are some particulars about the questions with which I am unfamiliar, I’ve identified some general issues:

  • Requests for help come both to churches and to individuals.  Since this podcast is more church focused, I will lean that way in my discussion.  However, some principles work either way.
  • Requests for help come both from individuals and organizations/causes.  Some principles work either way, but there will certainly need to be individualized responses.

I have good news and bad news.

First, the bad news

  • There are indeed people who are out to scam.
  • They will target Christians because they know:
    • We care deeply.
    • We look for the best in people and causes.
    • We tend not to really do our homework
    • We are generally unfocused.
    • We are easily manipulated by sad stories.
    • We are supposed to be gracious and forgiving.
  • At some point, someone will take advantage of us.

Grandpa said (when someone took advantage of him), “If he can live with it, I can live without it.”

The good news

  • Those with legitimate needs and good causes far outnumber the scammers.
  • It is much easier to find information than ever before.
  • The fact that you are able to ask the question is an indication that God has blessed you with resources to help.
  • God does not expect you to say “yes” to every request, but to display His character in every response.

With those in mind, I want to finish with some strategic focus.  Strategy does not kill freedom; it creates it.  If you have clarity on where you are and where you are headed, you are able to make better decisions because you are not having to create strategy “on the fly” in every circumstance.

Be strategic

  • Clearly identify your missional priorities and strategies.
  • Strengthen partnerships to multiply effective ministry.
  • Prayerfully choose a primary focus ministry and review annually.
  • Establish a budget (time, talent, money).
  • Say “no” with grace because you are clear on your larger “yes.”
  • Leave room for “God moments.”

 

How you can help me help others:

  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and give us a rating and review. 
  • We are also on Stitcher.com and Google Play, so if you prefer one of those formats, please subscribe there.
  • Share the love by clicking on one or more of the social share buttons at either the top or bottom of this post.

To comment on this episode or leave a question for a future episode:

1. Comment section below

2. Email: contactgerrylewis@gmail.com

3. Voicemail: 817-929-0643

4. Direct tweet @drgerrylewis

*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)

 

 

096 – How do we help people choose to come to church on Sunday? [Podcast]

A listener question

 

Welcome to Season 3 of the Your Church Matters podcast. Starting with this episode (96) I’m going to spend several episodes answering questions from a survey I did a few months back with my subscriber list.

 

Question: “Church vs. the recliner, how do we get people to feel comfortable coming to our time of Praise, Worship & Bible Teaching?”

 

 

Non-judgmental Analysis

First, I want to offer an analysis of the question.  I can’t be unbiased (no one can), but I intend to be non-judgmental.  I’m simply responding to what I see in the question.

Church vs. the Recliner – Is the “recliner” your main competition?  If you were to survey the non-church-attenders within a two-mile radius of your church, what percentage would say that they are spending that time sitting in the recliner instead of going to church?  I know that the question was posed by a male over the age of 60 who is retired from a non-church business (based on survey responses), so the “recliner” may be more of an issue within that demographic.  However, I suspect that it would still be a small percentage.

How do we get people to feel comfortable coming – Is your church really uncomfortable? If that is the case, what makes it so?  If the “recliner” is truly the main competition, then “comfort” may really be a big issue.  I wonder how many of those non-church-attenders would say, “I just don’t feel comfortable there,” because they know from having been there.  I also wonder how many would say, “I wouldn’t feel comfortable there,” out of speculation based on their perception or what they have heard?  Again, I suspect that “comfort” is not the primary issue.

Our time of Praise, Worship, and Bible Teaching – This may provide us with a good transition point.  “Our time” suggests to me that we are trying to get them to join us in what we are doing.  We may be getting somewhere with this one.  The tension between what we are doing on Sunday morning and what they are doing on Sunday morning is real.  How to most effectively deal with it is key.

Possible Diagnostic Questions

  1. What are people in our area doing on Sunday morning instead of going to church somewhere? Let’s not just think about our church, but let’s broaden it to any church. Are most of them really sitting home in the recliner?  Are they doing yard work?  Are they participating in youth sports leagues?  Are they on the lake or the golf course?  What options are there in our community?  Knowing those things will help us figure out how best to connect.  Assuming that the “recliner” is the only other attraction will limit our thinking and perhaps create ineffective outreach methods.
  2. Is our church really uncomfortable? If it were physically uncomfortable (seating, temperature, schedule) or had a spiritually/emotionally uncomfortable atmosphere, the regular attenders would be mentioning it. If that is the case, then start thinking about what adjustments or modifications can be made.
  3. Is our church comfortable to insiders but we are not communicating it well to guests or potential guests?  Could it be that our atmosphere and facilities are comfortable, but not guest-friendly?  I’ll refer you to two previous podcasts on the subject of guest-friendliness: Episode 41 – Make your church more guest-friendly in 7 days and Episode 42 – So, you think you’re guest-friendly.
  4. If our church closed, how long would it take for the non-church-attenders in our community to notice? I mentioned earlier that I suspect “comfort” is not the main issue. Is it possible that they don’t think church really matters?  Is it possible they don’t think attending church would have any impact on their lives?  Is it possible they don’t think we have a clue about what is going on in the real world and are not really doing anything to make an impact on the world?  It is not our job to make the gospel or Jesus relevant.  It is our job to demonstrate real world relevance.  Personal Bias Alert: It is my contention that trying to make people comfortable with the concept of “Bible teaching” is not far from trying to get them comfortable with the concept of a colonoscopy.  If I don’t believe the Bible really has anything to say to my circumstances, why would I want to come and listen to someone teach it? I believe we have done a disservice to the Bible by studying it for knowledge gaining rather than for life transformation.  That’s why I wrote my latest book, Why “Bible Study” Doesn’t Work: The epic failure of evangelicalism’s favorite discipleship method – and how Your Church can do something about it.
  5. Does our church communicate that we are interested in the lives of the people who live around us?  Here is an inconvenient truth: We have been sent to them; they have not been sent to us.  We are the ones with the missionary commission from God.  By asking them to join us in what we are doing, we are asking them to be the missionaries.  Rather, we are called to bring the presence of Jesus and the influence of the gospel into their world.  One of the greatest hindrances to people coming to church is our failure to BE the church.

 

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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)

*Special thanks to Nathan Woodward (Saxophone Music)