The Game Show Church
Thom Schultz Holy Soup
It was a Game Show Easter at one Texas church last year. In the name of outreach, the church gave away guitars, bedroom sets, televisions and cars during Easter services.
This “big bang” approach to outreach illustrates a specific style that many other churches have used, albeit on a smaller scale. Actually, it’s just one of many styles being employed with varying degrees of fanfare—and effectiveness.
Here’s a snapshot of a half-dozen contemporary approaches to outreach and evangelism.
EVENT-BASED. Like the Game Show Giveaway, some churches attract attention with special events. These may be movie screenings, comedy shows or spaghetti suppers. Churches hope to lure in the curious with an attraction, then convince them to come back for regular sing-and-preach worship services. Some might call this bait-and-switch. But proponents believe a good first impression may lead to a relationship with Christ.
PRESENTATIONAL. These churches spend a lot of time and money on the stage production of the worship service. Highly professional musicians, well-rehearsed oratory, dazzling visuals, theater-class lighting and seating. The high entertainment values may draw a crowd—especially those who seek the “best show in town on a Sunday morning.” Proponents hope the quality of the presentation will translate into a quality relationship with Christ.
EDUCATIONAL. These churches talk a lot about their “teaching.” They rely largely on the speech-writing and oratorical abilities of their pastors. The information-packed teachings may be very exegetical, highly intellectual, or folksy and self-help oriented. The proponents here believe the transmission of facts and information will lead to a relationship with Christ.
TRANSACTIONAL. This approach resembles a sales technique. Adherents focus on closing the deal—as quickly as possible. Every gathering is designed to funnel the prospects toward a faith decision. Proponents believe their persuasive abilities and the urgency of the moment will sell the non-believers into a decision to follow Christ.
SERVICE-ORIENTED. These churches focus on performing acts of kindness in the community. They may support a soup kitchen, build a Habitat house, offer free car tune-ups, or hand out water at bike rallies. Proponents believe that the community will “know we are Christians by our love.” They believe their kind acts may cause people to follow Christ.
RELATIONAL. This approach encourages building authentic relationships—friendships—that incorporate and demonstrate the love of Christ. Using a “priesthood of all believers” philosophy, this approach relies on everyone—not just the paid ministers—to befriend others and spread salt and light. Proponents believe the process of building authentic and trusting relationships empowers and emulates the process of building a relationship with Christ.
Some of these approaches may garner lots of initial attention, while others may show more long-term results. Many churches incorporate more than one of these approaches. But most emphasize one over all the others.
So, two questions for you:
1. Which approach does your church most embrace?
2. Which approach did Jesus’ ministry most reflect?
Thom Schultz is the founder of Group Publishing and blogs at Holy Soup.
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