By Vince Williams
February 9, 2010
The Wilsons are living the American dream: three children, a dog, a house in the suburbs. Bob works as a cook, while Nancy is a nurse. Their two sons are on the high school football team, and their daughter takes dance lessons and plays soccer. All three study hard and get above average grades. Both parents have long commutes and often work weekends, but to them it’s worth it to maintain a lifestyle. The whole family moves at a lightning-fast pace, so busy that they couldn’t possibly think about what they might be missing.
Your community is filled with Wilsons. How can we get their attention? How do we tell them how much they need Jesus?
People today are busy. They have more to see and do then ever before. On the average, workers in the United States commute more hours per year than they spend vacationing . When they do get a break they have boats, ski trips, and cruises to recharge them for the next round of chaos. And if there is no money for the fun stuff, we just watch it all happen on the tube. With all the commotion of today, even people within the church find it hard to get quiet moments to seek God.
But something is missing in the American formula. It’s something that most people don’t know is missing until they take the time to hear its quiet voice from the pounding sounds of our lives. That something is the key to a new resurgence within the church: authentic relationship.
God created us to relate, both to Him and to our fellow man. It is His will that we should spend eternity together with each other. But in today’s culture, relationships are simply malnourished—and that’s the key to reaching the people outside our building.
Recently while at an evangelism training seminar, I heard a full-time evangelist state, “The number one reason people show up to our events is because they are lonely.” Think about that. He didn’t say they hunger for God’s word, or that they are seeking Jesus, but that they are lonely. He wasn’t diminishing the work of the Spirit in drawing people to God, but acknowledging that the pain most people feel in the world today is loneliness.
Look at Acts 2:46-47:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It was in the context of authentic relationships that “the Lord added to their number daily.” And a Spirit-filled church offers authentic relationships in ways that the world never can.
This doesn’t detract from the importance of the message of the Gospel. It is in fact the heart of the Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). Love is relationship. Son is relationship. God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but to be saved through an authentic relationship with Him.
Your community is filled with lonely people. How can we more aggressively meet that need? Here are some principles:
- To change their perceptions we must increase our visibility. Most people think they know what church is all about—and you can be sure authentic relationships is not what comes to mind. It is our job to be visible to them through our external messaging and the relationships harvested within our church. As Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We have to be seen before we can help them understand what we are about.
- Talk in the language of relationship. In your external communications, reach into their hearts and touch the feelings they may be avoiding. Save the biblical terms for later. Instead, bring out their need for companionship and their hunger to be known. In your marketing materials, use phrases like, “There is still a place where people really care about each other.” Help them know that you welcome a dialogue.
- Breakthrough their barriers. Be genuinely enthusiastic to see new faces walk through your doors. People crave genuine interaction; often, though, they don’t know how to handle it. Society has conditioned us to avoid eye contact, turn on our iPods, and don’t talk to strangers. Increase the depth of the relationships in your church and you will see more people coming inside—and wanting to stay.
- Dream God-sized dreams. God wants to save your whole city. Often churches don’t strive to engage the community because they are afraid to fail or let non-Christians down. But God traveled across the universe to save an entire world, and He wants to work through your church to save a city. Seek God’s vision for your church, and work together to make it a reality.
At some point, the Wilsons in your town will feel a discontent with the status quo. It might happen through a crisis, like the death of a family member or a lost job. It might happen through the built up pressure of an unsustainable lifestyle. God is working on that family, and so should you. In the end we can be confident that even when the world appears to be too busy for their faith, they are still hungering for one of the most basic human needs: authentic relationship.
Vince Williams is Vice President for Marketing at SermonView. He ran his first direct mail campaign 18 years ago, and enjoyed it so much that he has been involved in sales and marketing work ever since. For the last 6 years Vince has dedicated himself to helping churches communicate better and market themselves more effectively. Vince lives with his wife in Vancouver, Wash.
- Taken from a study done by the US Census Bureau, http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/american_community_survey_acs/004489.html. ↩