Hey, Calvary Fremont –
The thinking of some is this: if you really want to be effective in evangelism, if you want your outreach efforts to yield tangible results, if you want to see people come to Christ – you need to focus on a specific demographic (a limited group of people) and target them. If you want to reach Millennials – do A. If you want to reach Gen X – do B. If you want to reach young professionals – do C. Craft your image and market your church in such a way that people in that demographic group will be attracted to you. You may need to hire an interior decorator, bring in professional musicians, and even throw in a fog machine. The specific demographic you want to reach will influence all these decisions. Study the group you want to reach and then make whatever adjustments necessary to reach them. We have to give them what they want before we can give them what they need. We must earn the right to be heard.
I’m always amazed at those nature programs that show thousands of look-a-like penguins with their young. Incredibly, when mom looks like any of the other thousands of moms, the baby penguin knows exactly who mom is. Mom’s unique chirp is imprinted on the brain of her baby. Because of imprinting, baby can distinguish mom’s chirp from all others. Out of the thousands of moms squawking and chirping, junior is drawn to one. Why bring this up?
I have been influenced by a lot of men in my Christian life. George Crites, Jesse Mason, Woody Phillips, Jack Hayford, Mario Murillo. I have been influenced by many, but I’ve been imprinted by one – Chuck Smith. No, I don’t worship the man. No, I don’t follow blindly. Yes, I think he made mistakes – and so have the men who have influenced you. When it comes to ministry and outreach and how to position the church in today’s world, Pastor Chuck is my dominant influence.
For me, Chuck modeled the organic approach to reaching a community versus the synthetic approach. The word organic means: relating to or derived from living matter. The word synthetic means: the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole. I listened to a radio program many years ago where a couple of men were talking about how Chuck, using the synthetic method, got the Calvary Chapel Movement going. They said that he conducted a demographic survey, determined the kind of people he wanted to reach, and then made his church attractive to hippies, drop-outs, and addicts. This is pure fabrication and nowhere near the truth of the matter. Hippies, drop-outs, and addicts began to attend his Bible studies and were converted to Christ. He allowed them to express their faith organically – via their music and vibe – and people were attracted to that. Chuck’s approach was organic, not synthetic. Chuck didn’t focus on a particular image he was wanting to develop and promote – he poured into the people that were coming and allowed them to express the love of God through their own uniqueness and capacities. When they encountered people out on the street, the people on the street got an authentic taste of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
That pattern holds everywhere. People are exposed to Calvary Chapel Fremont long before they attend Calvary Chapel Fremont. We can work to develop a certain kind of image, or work to develop a certain kind of people. If our image is slick and polished, professional, and inviting, but our people are jerks and don’t convey the beauty of Christ – will the slick church building, and cool worship band, and friendly church service be able to compensate for that? Why would someone attend a slick church service complete with fog machine and a café with world-class coffee if the people are jerks and don’t convey the beauty of Christ? Yes, I know that we need to maintain an attractive online presence for those who might find our church that way. But the best advertisement for a church is still the well-fed sheep! As a pastor, it’s more important to develop the Christlike character of the people than to market the church. The image of Christ in the people is more important than the aesthetics of the church. I don’t want to develop an image where the church looks like one thing online, but the people are out-of-line in reality. It’s not a polished building, a slick service, or a café with world-class coffee that is life-giving. The love and joy and power of Christ in His people is what’s life-giving! Like Chuck, I just want our people to express what Christ has placed within them. This is the love offering. This is well-pleasing to Christ.
Developing the image of the church to win a certain kind of people, a specific demographic, has never appealed to me. Yet I do have specific people in mind that I want Calvary Chapel Fremont to reach for Christ. Who do I want us to reach? Your parents, children, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, friends, neighbors, and co-workers – whether they be gay or straight, gender-confused or gender-clear, married, divorced, widowed, ex-con or alcoholic, Republican or Democrat. “That is a pretty broad demographic, Pastor Tim.” Yes, it is. Please note that when Paul went to Philippi, he evangelized a wealthy upper-class woman, a demon-possessed lower-class woman, and a middle-class civil servant. They all belonged to the same church, sang in the same choir, and attended potlucks together. No, they don’t belong to the same demographic, but they do belong in the same church!
The synthetic approach to community impact has never appealed to me because it fundamentally violates my vision of what a local church should be. The local church should be not attractive to a narrow demographic within the community, but to a demographic as wide as the community – lower, middle, and upper-class, Republican and Democrat, white, blue, and pink-collar, Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic, Caucasian, African American, Vietnamese, etc.
Where am I missing it?
Be blessed and stay healthy and follow Jesus – Pastor Tim