Ineffective Outreach: Pt 1/3. The problem of Idolatry and Music

Recently a friend of mine sent me an email with statistical data showing that the number of people who claim to be Christian’s in the United States is seriously on the decline.  The email claims to be a report on by author and speaker Bruce Feiler and asks “Where have all the Christian’s gone?” ( then proceeds to detail Christianity’s declining numbers.  In the discussion that followed with him the question that developed was “how do we turn this tide and what role should technology take in our renewed efforts?”  He touches on the idea that he realizes that “music can be a powerful draw” and that “we need to keep gearing it toward the younger crowd.”  But then he ultimately wonders “what we could be doing beyond that is the big question.”

The issue of ineffective outreach:

I believe that for the last 25-30 years, the problem has been that the Church has focused too much on music as a major (if not the) contributing factor in church growth.  As a youngster I remember people talking about it.  As a college student I remember professors talking about it.

These days we have tons of churches that offer some form of contemporary worship.  Many of them still don’t grow.  Or if they add to their numbers, they subtract the same amount through the plateau effect.  It seems to me that the smoking gun of church growth is not great or relevant music as has been thought for the last generation.  If it was, then every church that has relevant well performed music would be growing.

The problem with “what to do beyond that” (that being music) being a question without an answer is that the question has already been answered.  However, I believe that the church has become so engulfed in idolatry that we end up consuming too much of our limited resources (time, money, energy, talent) protecting our idols and arguing their place in the church instead of using those resources to reach out to the lost community.  The Church does a fantastic job taking care of itself.  The Church doesn’t do such a great job of taking care of the ones who are not already in our walls every Sunday morning.  The net result is that we focus on our idolatry and not the solution to our growth problem.  It boils down to this: the energy we use taking care of ourselves need to be totally redirected outward.

The churches that focus on the answer to the “beyond that” question are the churches that have figured out how to make outreach a daily and nearly 24/7 affair are the churches that grow and add to not just their numbers, but the numbers of the Kingdom.  Churches that are big have it easier as in any large pool of people, the talent, money, and time are relatively easier to find.  However in churches that are small, it takes a larger percentage of the budget, of the people, and of the time to have same effective reach.  And when I say “add to their numbers” I mean in substantial hard to miss numbers.  (I wonder: does your church think it is reaching its fullest potential here?)

So a church with a well defined and established vision for the future coupled with the people who are disciplined to give up their own ways to make it happen the way it needs to happen are the ones who are going to be baptizing and adding to their numbers on a constant and almost (is this me being faithless?) daily basis.

Up next: Technology’s place in the church!


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