I Was Duped

I've always wanted to use the word "duped" in something and here's my chance!  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the noun usage of "dupe" means "one who is easily deceived or cheated."  As a verb "dupe" means "to deceive or trick (someone) into believing or doing something."  So when I say I was duped, I mean that I was that guy who was easily deceived and tricked into believing and doing something. 

Perhaps the question you're asking me now is, "what is that something you were duped into believing and doing?"  The answer = church consumerism.  Most often we think of this consumer mentality from the perspective of the "buyer" ... folks shopping around for the best deal they can get on church membership.  But because I'm a pastor, I bought into it from the perspective of "seller."  Much of the entire church growth movement that I was trained in essentially just directed me to manufacture a better product for Christians who were shopping for their best option.  Our strategy was to have bigger and better programs, bigger and better events, bigger and better plans, bigger and better buildings, bigger and better ministries.  Of course, the goal of all this was to have bigger and better numbers of people.  Statistics became the measure of church health.  Church growth = church health.  The only way to measure the true effectiveness of something was to ask if it was effective at bringing people in the door.  The problem here is that we were really only targeting Christian consumers who were looking for the biggest bang for their buck.

Please don't hear me incorrectly here.  Every church should have the best programs, events, ministries, etc. that it can, churches must welcome any and all who would come, and churches must never be content with no growth.  But the problem is that our programs became entertainment driven, our ministries catered to the popular trends of Christian culture, and our growth was fundamentally just transfer growth ... Christians jumping from one church to the next.  Because we could get someone to leave their church family and attend ours isn't an indication of true church health.

I'm still all for church health and church growth, but I now firmly believe that the church's health and growth is related to how well we reach the unbeliever.  I just don't think the unbelieving world is looking to be entertained by us ... Hollywood does a much better job at that than we're capable of.  I don't think the ministry of the church is to be shaped by popular cultural trends ... rather the unbeliever needs to see and experience the church as a counter-culture, something vastly different from what pop-culture offers, a place where grace and truth are pervasive.  Ministry, worship, events, strategies, programs, etc. are to be shaped by Scripture (as opposed to culture) so that the unbeliever can catch a true glimpse of who God is and what He calls us to. 

I truly want Community Presbyterian to grow!  I want us to grow deeper in our knowledge of Christ and I want us to grow in number.  But let's intentionally focus on numerical growth by means of reaching unbelievers rather than merely wooing Christian consumers.  I would ask that you start in this very simple way - identify at least 3 unbelievers and commit to pray for them on a regular basis.  We need to do more than just pray, but also don't underestimate what intentional and specific prayer may accomplish.  We may really be surprised at what God may do with CPC if we take seriously our call to be salt and light to a non-Christian world.