Friday, March 31, 2006

The Audience of Truly Relevant Ministry

In my continuing discussion about relevant ministry, I want to highlight an aspect of 1 Corinthians 9 that is often overlooked: the broad audience that Paul sought to reach. Here's 1 Corinthians 9:19...
"For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them."
Do you hear what he means by saying "all?" He really meant all. He meant Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, weak, strong, men, women, slaves, free. He meant everyone.

To the Jews, he became like a Jew. To the Gentiles, he became like a Gentile. To the weak, he became weak. Notice: he didn't limit himself to the strong or the cool or the effective or the famous. Relevance, in Paul's ministry, meant relevance to everyone.

Today's evangelical church has a particular fondness for business and marketing. In our zeal for excellence, numerical growth, and relevance, we have adopted many secular "best practices" for growth and expansion. What works for Pepsi and Coke, music-makers, clothes designers, and drug companies will also work for the church, right?

Maybe so, if "work" means simply a larger gathering or more hits on the website. But if "work" means building up the church of Jesus Christ, there are some dangers lurking in the crevices of the "best of business." One of those dangers is the TRAP OF THE TARGET AUDIENCE.

Businesses succeed by finding a niche. They find the product or the place in the market where they shine, and they put their money and time and energy into taking advantage of that niche. When we apply this to the church, however, we unfortunately get outreach and ministry to some people but not others. We seek to be relevant to a narrow audience type, and though we're effective there, we often neglect caring for the rest.

Is this what God wants?

Paul made it his purpose to share the gospel with everyone he encountered.

In the great commission, Jesus said
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations."
Joel 2:28 says
"And it shall come to pass afterward,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions."
Does God have a target audience? No. He wants to reach everyone.

Tough question for the day: Are you ready to give up being the "Gen-X" church (or whatever label you may use) to become truly relevant?

During my next post on relevant ministry, I'll discuss some possible lures of the idea of target audience and what could happen to a church that is focused too much on one small group of people.
More Posts on Relevant Ministry

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