How do we improve at reaching people who are far from God? First, we need to understand God’s heart for them. Without that, I don’t think it will help to learn how to do a worship service that connects with the lost, or a new effective way to share the gospel with the lost, or creative marketing ideas that will get lost people to show up. Why won’t it help? Because it will always be easier to not reach the lost. It will always be easier to reach the saved and seek to keep them happy. And so even if we know how to reach lost people eventually we will stop trying because it’s just too difficult. This is why every church wants to reach lost people, but so few do.
I read a story about Jeff Van Gundy, who used to be the basketball coach of the New York Knicks. Later he was hired to coach the Houston Rockets. The day he was hired he left the press conference and went straight to the airport. He took a plane to the hometown of Steve Francis. Steve Francis was the Rockets’ point guard, and one of the better players in the NBA. But Steve Francis had led the Rockets in shots and in scoring every year of his career. That is not the role of a point guard. Point guards distribute the ball. They get everyone else involved and should rarely take shots. So Jeff Van Gundy flies to Steve Francis’ hometown, drove to his house, knocked on his door, walks in, sits across a table from him, looks him in the eye, and says, “Steve, everyone wants to be on a winning team. The question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to be on a winning team?”
And every church wants to reach lost people, the question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to reach lost people? Because there are sacrifices if you want to reach lost people. There are costs you will pay.
- There’s the reality that if you reach out to truly lost people, you’re gonna have people curse in yor sanctuary. We had someone curse in a baptistery.
- There is a lot of extra work, many hours, that goes into having facilities that look great, rather than settling for good enough.
- There is the messiness of the lives of people you will reach – and you will get drug into their messes.
- There’s the burden of having to fire people on your staff who don’t live up to the standards that you’re striving for rather than taking the easy way out of just keeping them around so that you don’t make waves.
- There’s the cost that you will be criticized by other churches for the methods you’re using. I’ve had someone call me and say, “You hand-clapping gospel puke!” and hang up on me
- You’ll have thumb-sucking Christians whining to you all the time about how they’re “not getting fed.”
- You will lose people in your church who don’t understand why you do things the way you do and why you focus so much on unchurched people. Those people you lose may be tithers. We have lost the biggest giving family in our church in the last year … twice! They left, came back, and now they’ve left again. And they’ve taken their money with them. That’s a real cost!
- And if you seek to reach people who are truly unchurched rather than those who go to other churches, well non-Christian, unchurched people don’t tithe. And so there will be less income for your church, and therefore less salary for you.
- You will have people who dress wrong, people with Mohawks, people who smoke on the church patio, people sitting in the middle of your sanctuary who smell like beer.
Everyone wants to be part of a church that reaches lost people, the question is: Are you willing to sacrifice to be part of a church that reaches lost people? Most aren’t. And if you’re not, well, who will? The truth is that we’ll never be willing to make those sacrifices until we understand and have God’s heart for lost people.