Friday, February 17, 2017

Advertising Without Influence Is Hype (The Presence-Driven Church)

Somewhere in Monroe

In church history we read that, when God showed up in a church, the word got out and sometimes "spread like fire." This tells me that God's presence is more about influence than it is about advertising. Advertising without influence is hype. And, you don't have to advertise a fire.

Howard Thurman said that everything is available in God’s presence. I agree. A presence-driven life does not measure itself quantitatively. The result of presence-driven ministry is influence. Where God’s presence is, there is influence, almost by definition.

Reading Eugene Peterson's The Pastor: A Memoir solidified an idea I have had for many years, which is: as a pastor and Jesus-follower, I am to desire influence, rather than size. It is not important how big a church is (in terms of attendees, square footage, and budget). It is important how influential a church is. Influence, not size, is what really matters. Thus, the Real Church makes disciples, rather than spending resources to attract more people.
By "influence," I mean the kind of things Jesus talked about when he used metaphors like "salt" and "yeast." "You are the salt of the earth," Jesus said.
 A bit of salt can flavor a bite of food.

What's needed are salty Jesus-followers. Salt influences food, rather than being influenced by it. Salt is active, not passive. By analogy, may your life influence the world, rather than being influenced by it.
Non-salty "Christians" are, in Jesus' eyes, "no longer good for anything, except to be thrown our and trampled underfoot." (Matthew 5:13)
How many people are in your church? Wrong question! Are your people influencing culture? That's what is important. You don't have to be large or famous to do this.
Focus on influence. Influence is found in God's experienced presence. When people are touched by God you won't have to advertise it, because you don't have to advertise a fire. Indeed, you should not advertise it (because it feels like using people to advance your own kingdom).
For example: the Underground Church in China. No advertising, obviously. It's growing like wildfire. It refuses to bow before the Chinese government's restrictions and become "official churches" of the state.
Perhaps, in America, we need the New Underground Church, one that refuses to comply with secular marketing strategies and their quantitative promises.

My recent book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.

I am currently writing Leading the Presence-Driven Church (June 2017)and How God Changes the Human Heart (A Phenomenology of Spiritual Transformation) (June 2018).