The countdown is on to the launch day of People Are The Mission, coming Tuesday, March 6. Each Monday until the release date I’m sharing brief excerpts from the book. I’d love to hear your feedback!
Excerpt from chapter two, The Sermon Starts in the Parking Lot.
If you’re a pastor, ministry leader, or church volunteer, let me ask: if you believe you are proclaiming the most important message in the world, then why would you not try as hard as possible to create a great experience to get people to a great message? Depending on environment only makes it all about us. We get excited about our buildings and our service order and our abilities and our bells and whistles, and we downplay the power of the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people. But to say that we are depending on Spirit only, while it appears holy and accurate, can sometimes serve as a cover for our laziness. If you believe the weight of the gospel lies on one man and a pulpit and it all rises and falls on the sermon, then go ahead and open the door and do your thing. But most people don’t believe that. We know that the gospel is proclaimed in multiple different ways: through spoken word, relational impact, and experiential cues. We believe that God gives spiritual gifts, and some of those gifts are for preaching and some are for hospitality. You need to trust that the Spirit can work through you and the gifts he has bestowed on you.
A lot of our churches think inside out: we start with the usually correct assumption that what happens in the auditorium or sanctuary is of the utmost importance. We spend several hours each week planning the music, the message, and the logistics of a worship service. If the stage is ground zero, then we start with the sermon and work outward.
[So] while you’ll never find me criticizing a pastor who wants to give adequate preparation to presenting the Word of God, that is only one part of the equation. By the time guests hear the sermon, many of them have already made some key decisions about whether this church is a good fit. Church growth experts are nearly unanimous in telling us that first-time guests make a decision to return within the first seven to ten minutes on the property. The intangible “feel” of your church, the visual cues you deliver, and the general mood of the congregation will add to or take away from the main event.
Rather than starting with the sermon and working outward from there, consider an alternative approach. Start where your guests do, and think outside-in. Grade the quality of the message they hear before the message. Ask probing questions about your environment.* Pretend you’ve never been to your church before, and think about what a typical guest experiences when they visit your church on a typical weekend. Your answers should point to one overarching question: Does this detail add to or take away from what we are talking about when we talk about the gospel?
* I get it: your inner rebel doesn’t do probing questions, especially when a book starts bossing you around. Just relax and play along for a moment.
Taken from People Are the Mission by Danny Franks. Copyright © 2018 by Danny Franks. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.