Principle #5 (of 9): Check Your Influences

We’re looking at the top nine principles we apply on Sunday mornings so that our services connect with lost people and today is principle number five: Check your influences.

If you ever listen to a guitarist being interviewed they’re often asked, “So, who are your influences?” And they’ll say, “Oh, I listened to a lot of Jimmy Hendrix growing up.” “Eric Clapton, he’s had a major impact on how I play guitar.” We all have influences. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there are examples we’ve followed to some degree. And most churches have influences too. I spoke to a guy about to start a church down the street from us once and he said, “We’re kind of a Saddleback Purpose-Driven church, but on Sunday mornings we follow Willow Creek a little more. But our small group approach is guided more by Northpoint…” He then went on to mention another few churches. Then he asked me, “What about you? What churches are you following?” And I didn’t have an answer for that.

Here’s why: Our major influence, obviously, is God and what He’s told us in the Bible. If there’s a right way (in God’s eyes) of doing something, we do it that way. In what we teach, we follow the Bible. And hopefully we all do that.

But in those areas where God has given us freedom – which are many – the style of music, the order of service, the methods we use to communicate the gospel, the way we use our lobby, the way we decorate our facility, the style of our advertising – in all those areas our influences are not churches. Now I can’t say that we’ve never picked up anything from another church, because we have. And we do try to learn from churches, and we go to conferences … but … churches are not the experts at reaching unchurched people. There are some churches that are better than others, but even the best of churches pale in their ability to reach the unchurched compared to the influences we’ve found at our church. You know why? Because our influences include MTV, Dave Letterman, Disney, Starbucks, Saturday Night Live, Conan O’Brian, Chuck E. Cheese. Again, not in doctrine. But if we’re trying to figure out how to do our lobby we don’t check out Southeast Christian Church, we check out Starbucks. Southeast is great, but Starbucks is better at creating atmosphere for unchurched people. And if we’re trying to figure out what style of music to use, we don’t listen to Hillsong or Chris Tomlin, we listen to MTV – they’re better at reaching lost people. And if we’re trying to figure out how to use creativity in our service to connect with newcomers we don’t buy Willow Creek dramas, we look at what Letterman or Leno or Conan or Saturday Night Live or Disney are doing.

And I would encourage you to check your influences. Learn from churches, but don’t restrict yourself to churches, because there is no church as good at reaching unchurched people as Disney or Chucky Cheese or Starbucks or MTV.

Next time I’ll share principle #6, which is totally powerful.

Until then remember … it’s not magic … it’s an illuuuuuusion.

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