here is a review with insights from Alan Nelson. He is the executive editor of Rev! Magazine, the author of a dozen books, and has been a pastor for 20 years.
I just attended the Externally Focused Church (EFC) Conference in Longmont, Colorado, and have one more take on authenticity and its rising stock in terms of attracting people to your church, as well as to yourself as a leader.
EFC leaders were anticipating 250 to 300 people but were pleasantly surprised by an attendance of more than 600, which reflects an increasing movement across the nation of churches thinking outside the box in order to develop their congregants inside the box. As post-modern skepticism increases, people are more and more interested in who we are rather than what we know. Apologetics are going the way of the 8-track and cassette players because people have little time to invest in Christian marketing ploys. They want the real deal.
Churches that are getting people into the community, whether through fixing up widows’ homes, building Habitat houses, painting a neighborhood school, or providing water to homeless people, are doing what Jesus did. What is interesting is that many “mainline” churches have been doing social service for decades, but for some reason, there wasn’t always the connection between the good deed and a more personalized relationship with Jesus.
Now “evangelicals” feel as though they’re discovering this concept of social outreach, but they’re retaining the good news that this is what Jesus did and what those who follow him do, and you can know him, too. Far too many churches have not earned the right to speak into the lives of those around them, and then we wonder why modern marketing and slick attraction programs aren’t cutting it like they did in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s a new day.
Look at your budget and program calendar and assess how much you do for your immediate community. The osmosis approach of hoping that your church leaks into the community isn’t working. These days, you need a focused impetus on getting talent, time, and treasure into people and projects around you.
Authentic leading, the real deal, is needed for people to follow you, now more than ever. Authentic service—altruistic acts of kindness outside the church, not just to bring people inside your church—is needed for us to share our faith. This new network of churches catching the spirit of beyond-the-church-walls is an exciting piece of what God is doing all over the nation. I’d encourage you to get involved and see what you can do to lead authentically internally, as well as to lead authentically externally.
Go to www.rev.org and click on the “Links to other great pastor sites” (and then on Externally Focused Church Network).
Alan Nelson is the executive editor of Rev! Magazine, the author of a dozen books, and has been a pastor for 20 years.