Welcome To The Big Show

A key element to many (most?) church planting strategies is what I call “The Draw.” The Draw is an attempt to attract and engage people, usually in the form of some sort of event. A concert, a game, some kind of activity for the kids… anything to gather people so that interaction can occur. I’ve heard of church planters talk about organizing sports tournaments, throwing pizza parties, and bringing in a group of mimes to perform in the town square.

Events can be pretty expensive, and usually require a lot of hard work to put together. Add to that the governmental bureaucracy found in most Western European countries, and putting together an event can take over your life.

Unfortunatley, we waste a lot of time, money, and energy on events that seem like a good idea. They might even attract masses of people. But what then? Preach the Gospel over the sound system and call it good? Hold an Altar Call? Most of the time, big events fail to get us any closer to a personal interaction with lost people that door-to-door cold calls. Five hundred people come to your Sandi Patty concert. Maybe you get their names and contact info. What next, “Spamming for Jesus?”

And now, dear reader, you are likely anticipating a diatribe of disparaging remarks about events and those who organize them. You know: “What’s wrong with you people, don’t you know that mimes are scary?” or “Bringing in a group of High Schoolers to perform a series of offensively trite “Christian”skits in the mall is lame.”

But not this time, reader. I’ve learned that there are better ways to challenge the tactics of my coworkers than spouting off, “What on God’s green earth made you think it was a good idea to pass out ‘Jesus Hearts You‘ yo-yos on the Metro or bring in Kirk Cameron to autograph copies of Left Behind DVDs?”

No, this time, I’m going to be affirming. Today I offer encouragement.

Events aren’t always a good idea, but they aren’t always bad, either. I understand that you’re desperate to meet people with whom you can share the gospel. I understand how hard it is to break into the existing social structure, especially when you’re a professional missionary with poor social skills. Believe me, I know.

Why not try to keep events small and personal? Instead of renting out a concert hall, try your living room (or better yet, someone else’s?) Instead of shelling out the big bucks to bring in Mercy Me, why not invite a local musician? Events can be great tools for building relationships that extend into local social structures. Throw a party, and invite a friend to invite his friends. There’s power in the interaction of a lost person with a believer. It’s easier to love people from close-up.

How about doing everything you can to avoid the “bait and switch?” Don’t put together a movie night that is actually a presentation of the Jesus film. If any of the people you invite have actually seen a real movie, they’re either going to question your taste in movies, or feel totally deceived. Don’t call it “open discussion,” “free to all,” or “Family Fun Night,” if it isn’t any of those things.

We’re learning the importance of getting involved in activities that are already going on in the community. If you go to a movie with national friends, you could have a great opportunity to pick out Truth from the film and talk about it over coffee afterward. Through this we’re finding that our host culture is full of Truth and wisdom and indirect references to the Creator. Tapping into that really goes a long way toward presenting the Gospel not just as “We have a message for you and your people,” but as “Hey, look, we’re part of a Divine Conspiracy, in which God is using all of creation to call you to Himself.”

The Draw is good, just be sure we’re doing it on the right level. I say, keep up the events. Let’s just be sure that we keep things as real, honest, and personal as possible.

About E. Goodman

Ernest Goodman is a missiologist, writer, teacher, and communications strategist.