Outreach Magazine is out with its list of the 100 Largest U.S. Churches for 2007. Of course, no such list appears anywhere in scripture. While it certainly could be argued that numbers mattered to the New Testament church (indicated by their citation in the book of Acts), churches in the New Testament are nowhere ranked in terms of their numbers.
Can you imagine any of the inspired writers of the New Testament ranking the church at Ephesus above the church at Philippi, and Philippi above the church at Thessalonica based solely on how many people were showing up each week? It is clear what the Apostles found most noteworthy in the New Testament churches: the level of faith, hope and love at work in each of these assemblies (see, for example, Col. 1: 3-6).
Accompanying this year’s list of America’s largest churches was a piece by Kem Meyer, the communications director at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. Titled Top Ten Things You Should Know About Unchurched People If You Want Them to Hear What You are Saying, it included the following insights: “Talk about what makes life better for the guest”; “People aren’t motivated by your [the church’s] need. They are motivated by theirs”; “People relate when you talk about them or people like them.” In other words, the success of the church depends upon motivating unregenerate people to join your cause by enticing them with how satisfying and fulfilling it can be, in the same way marketers try and sell us cars and computers and televisions and vacations.
Could anything be further from a true presentation of the gospel?
Jesus said, “If any one would be my disciple he must first deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Motivating people by appealing to their felt needs is like forcing a square peg into the round hole of Jesus’ call to abandon ourselves for His sake and the sake of the gospel.
Ms. Meyer also suggests we have to be careful in our communication with the unchurched—careful not to give the impression that “they aren’t OK where they’re at and they’re not as good as they should be.” Really? I thought the whole premise of the gospel was that I’m not OK and you’re not OK and that’s why we needed the gospel in the first place.
So to reach the unchurched the best thing to do is to not tell them what God’s word says about their sinful condition, the plight they are in and the wrath they are under—as Paul did in the first three chapters of Romans?