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February 14, 2008 / David Lindner

It’s been a while since I posted and a lot has changed. Thankfully God moved me on to a church where I do respect the leadership. It’s been such a blessing to work there and to know that we’re doing everything we can to reach people. No church is perfect, and I don’t expect this church to be perfect, but I know that God is working in the lives of people and lives are being impacted and changed for eternity.

Andy Stanley says this phrase all the time, “Are you more concerned with reaching people or keeping people.” As Andy is so good at, he takes a very complicated problem and turns it into a short phrase that can change the way you think.

The problem is complicated because of the implications of keeping people. Keeping people means our church will bend over backwards to keep the people we already have attending happy. It means we will do whatever it takes to not lose one member of our congregation, even if that member causes all kinds of problems and even causes others to leave. Isn’t it ironic that we’ll do everything to keep people, but don’t realize that if we asked just one person to leave, we’d keep possibly large groups of other people from leaving. It means that to keep the people we have, we’ll ignore the needs of the people we want to reach. It means that we’ll do church in the style the people we already have enjoy and not change they style so that we can reach new people.

I was reminded of the importance of this principle so clearly in a coversation I had yesterday. There was a person at a church I worked at several years ago who controlled so much in the church that they intrinsically had control over the direction of the church. This isn’t always a bad thing, leadership is influence after all. But in this case it was a very bad thing. Many people over the years this family was at the church left because of the family, but because they had so much control over the church they stuck around. Finally a couple of years ago a situation drove at least part of the family to leave the church. In this converation I was having, it was interesting to hear the contrast in the environment at the church now that this person is gone. Before, the church didn’t feel like a living, breathing entity, but a cold and lifeless institution. Now that the person is gone, life is coming back to the body, and vibrancy is living again.

If only someone would have had the guts to ask the person to leave years ago, how many people could have been reached? Church Leaders, don’t be afraid to ask people to leave your churches. It needs to be handled with care, and caution, and we must be sure that we are doing so for the good of the entire body, not individual conflict or dislike, but there are times when it needs to be done. If you have the guts to do it, God can do great things through you.

Os Guiness said something to the effect of this – never has the church tried harder to be relevant and never has the church been more irrelevant. What an amazing statement. For centruies the church has been a major influence on culture, and now the church has very little influence on culture. In-fact, culture may have more of an influence on church than vice versa.

Let’s be more concerned with reaching people than keeping people. Let’s be like Jesus and be willing to leave the 99 to go after the one. Let’s do our best to be relevant so that people come to church and see that our churches are different than the irrelevant churches they’ve known in the past. If we do this maybe the church will get back to the place where it has influence on culture once again.


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