People Are The Mission: Sneak Preview (ch. 4)
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 four, Beyond Parking Shuttles and Smoke Machines.
As much as I love what I do, my soul often needs to be reminded that guest service isn’t a cul-de-sac. It’s not a destination for those we serve. Keeping people happy and helping them is great, but those things are a means to something more significant. The hospitality our church demonstrates on the weekend isn’t why we gather, it’s a part of the journey. It’s not the end, but rather a means to an end.
Our desire to welcome people and help outsiders become insiders is good. But if our desire stops there, it can be dangerous. We have to be careful that in our aspiration to provide an excellent experience for guests, the bells and whistles in our bag of tricks aren’t just smoke and mirrors. We need a solid foundation that underlies and motivates all we do. If we construct a great experience on top of a shaky foundation, it’s eventually going to come crashing down. And so the way we serve and care for our guests has to point to something beyond the way we serve and care for our guests.
If we are constructing an argument that hospitality serves the greater good of the evangelical church, then we must honestly acknowledge and think critically about a few points. It’s very easy to get deep in the weeds of local church ministry—especially the inside-the-walls, weekend worship portion of local church ministry—and miss out on the bigger picture. Pastors and ministry leaders gain a certain measure of comfort if the attendance numbers are growing (or at least holding steady) year after year. When we look out at our congregation on Sunday morning, we tend to gauge our success by how many people are in the pews. If there are more there this week than last week, then all the better.
The problem with this mind-set is that attendance isn’t an accurate measure of health. We know this because there are huge churches that are theologically off base. There are congregations that draw crowds every week, but their purpose is more social than sacred, or their doctrine doesn’t align with the teachings of Jesus and the Christian church. Having a lot of people at your church is not the same as having a lot of disciples who love Jesus.
Statistics help us conceal this fact. If the year-over-year head count is going up, we assume that we must be doing something right, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps we’re just better at the Sunday morning show than the other guys down the street. Steve Timmis says it this way: “It is still possible to grow a church by offering a better experience than other churches. This is growth, just not gospel growth.” If there is a danger inherent in cultivating a “guest mind-set,” it is that our focus on guests—even our noble proclamation that people are the mission—can sometimes conceal a shallow gospel culture. We lure people into sticking around for a few months before they realize there isn’t much beneath the sparkly surface.
Taken from People Are the Mission by Danny Franks. Copyright © 2018 by Danny Franks. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.