Church People are Weird

November 1, 2006 by

That’s what Gary Lamb, pastor of Ridge Stone Church in Canton, Ga. says in the post that made him famous. He originally posted it last year and it resulted in 137 comments and soaring traffic. He re-posted it this week for those of us who weren’t around for the infamous rant (like me).

It’s good stuff, a confessional of sorts about how he visited another church’s fall harvest festival. The application is if the church is truly going to reach people, we need to do some remarkable stuff, not just cater to other Christians. Here are few of my favorite lines:

  • “I want my kids growing up digging church not thinking it is lame.”
  • “Man the christianize language was in full affect. … If someone called it Harvest day instead of Halloween one more time I was going to punch them. Unchurched people think we are weird because we are.”
  • “More and more pastors are very sissy men.”
  • “I am worried about the church. Overall she just doesn’t get it.”

I’m sure Gary’s post riled a lot of people up (with 137 comments I bet a few weren’t too happy), but I love his attitude of doing things with excellence and not the churchy norm–all so we can reach people.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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13 Responses to “Church People are Weird”

  • Useful_Arts
    November 1, 2006

    Funny that his church has a flash splash page. Oh the webific irony.

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  • Brandon
    November 1, 2006

    As I was reading over Gary’s post I couldn’t help but laugh, I was actually getting so cut up that other employees were coming in my office to see what was going on. I’m not crazy… atleast I don’t think so, I have just thought of some of the same things Gary was bringing up, and it made me chuckle. I think it would be good for every member of the Church to take a good critical look at ourselves like Gary has.

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  • Vinny
    November 1, 2006

    Too bad he turned off the comments. I’d be curious to see the responses.
    But perhaps should there be some inherent weirdness in church people? Example: We’re discussing starting a second service. The prevailing opinion (save that of mine and the pastor’s) is that the second service shouldn’t be on Sunday, so that we can reach the unchurched. One of the reasons/excuses given for this is that with a late morning church service, your Sunday is pretty much shot if you want to plan anything, like a trip to visit family for the day. Another reason/excuse is that so many kids’ sports leagues have games on Sunday morning or early Sunday afternoon.
    For me, this is a bit of a cop-out. Is Sunday not a special day anymore? I don’t know of any churches whose primary worship services are sometime other than Sunday morning.
    So, what’s an acceptable level of weird?

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  • Adam B.
    November 1, 2006

    I think the fundamental problem that Gary experienced first hand is that the church cannot, at the same time/event, be a safe haven for Christians and their children and a tool for outreach. If the church is a haven for Christian, a place for them to learn, grow and express their faith then “Christianese”, the mild mannered pastor and similar issues become the very things we long for. In outreach these things become a hindrance. People can’t understand what we say, why we don’t call it Halloween, why our pastor is so lame. I don’t want to say that worship and outreach are fundamentally opposed, but you are dealing with two different animals, the Christian and the non-Christian. Personally I don’t think our biggest problem is that we do things that make us look weird, but that we are creating events for US while saying they are actually for THEM. I have yet to see a church that in the same event can be relevant to the culture and the sensibilities of non-Christians, and at the same time have anything meaningful to offer the mature faithful. Perhaps that is what Church Marketing Sucks is all about?

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  • The Aesthetic Elevator
    November 1, 2006

    My wife told me today about a church in town that has a “Trunk or treat,” where they invite kids in town to come to their church parking lot and give away candy out of their trunks . . .

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  • Betsy
    November 2, 2006

    Great comments, and I haven’t even read the article yet! I look forward to that.
    TAE: Our church does a Trunk or Treat, and we do everything possible to make it NOT churchy. We have a vision to reach out to our community in fun, family-friendly events that have nothing to do with church. It’s not, “come to our event, but when you get here, someone gives an altar call”. I HATE that. It’s just to get our name out there so that when we do contact them with an event that’s held at our church (we do gather their contact info at these events, and send them invites to other community events), they won’t be scared to check it out.
    Adam B.- The saddest part of your comment is that you say that “you are dealing with two different animals, the Christian and the non-Christian”. WHY must Christians be different than non-Christians? I know that the Bible calls us to be “set apart”, but that’s in our conduct (integrity, sexual purity, love and service towards others), not in our culture! I think a sissy pastor is the WORST thing, for Christians and non-Christians alike! Jesus wasn’t a pansy (in spite of all the lily-white, long-haired, dress-wearing paintings). He was a man’s man. When he approached the fishermen, the blue-collar workers of their day, they reacted to the passion, vision and MANLINESS of his call. Jesus wasn’t TAME (see his rage in the Temple), he wasn’t WEAK (see his extreme endurance on the way to the cross), and he wasn’t SAFE (that’s why they killed him!!!).
    Vinny – I think our “weirdness” is to be our higher standards. I recall Daniel’s stand against the rich foods in Babylon. He asked to be exempt, but with a challenge: he and his friends would be stronger for keeping their laws. I think as Christians, we try to get an alternative to all things of the world — but our “other” is always inferior! God called us to the best possible life (John 10:10). If calling it “Harvest” instead of “Halloween” isn’t better, then we’re just substituting. But when we walk in integrity and love, when we have sexual purity and rocking marriages, when our relationships are the example of what everyone else wishes they could have, THEN we are weird AND drawing all men to Christ! But being weird for the sake of being different, for the sake of not being worldly, that just SUCKS. And no one in the world wants what we’ve got.
    That’s my 2 cents.

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  • Phil "the pino"
    November 2, 2006

    weird? we’re not weird! (sarcastic overtones intended!)
    When Gary mentioned that “men were sissy”, it rung a bell for me. I’ve been noticing that men have for some reason given into the lie that a true man does whatever will make him look passive aggressive and sensitive to the “needs of others.” I can be counted as wrong, but I think men have been duped by women in this area of “sissyness” just like a lot of women have been duped by men that revealing more of your body is somehow empowering women instead of degrading them. (ok…before you get all upset, I am making a general statement…take it with a grain of salt)
    So if church men are supposed to be “sissys” and not spiritual leaders who have “you know what”, then I guess I would have to agree with Gary, that church people are weird. But let’s remember, that Jesus does describe the church as being strangers of this world and that the world will hate us becuase we follow Jesus. So our desire to win “popularity” with the world will always be an uphill battle – but a battle always worth fighting. Ok….enough said!

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  • Adam B.
    November 2, 2006

    I think a large part of our weirdness, ie our unique culture comes from the fact that it is necessary for Christians to pursue peace. I agree that calling it “Harvest Fest” instead of what we really mean is only a change and not an improvement, but sometimes those changes are necessary to keep the peace. Of course its annoying and a little stupid, but this is the real world and we are dealing with real (church) people. Ideally, as Betsy pointed out, our culture would be similar but better in terms of righteousness which would make it both understandable and more appealing. Functionally this is difficult because some Christians think that holiness means that we do not dress up like witches and such. Is it worth splitting a church, a legitimate possiblility in some cases, so that an event can be called a Halloween party instead of a Harvest fest?
    And of course no one wants a sissy man pastor. Sometimes I fear that a pastor who prioritizes peace over relevance is considered a sissy.

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  • jasond
    November 2, 2006

    If there are people that leave the church because of what you named an event, let them go. We’ve had our share of those who don’t like our logo or think our worship should be more like this or that and have left because of it. It’s very upsetting and we will miss them, but we can’t go around worrying about offending our own people with the name of an event or the color of our napkins. Neither of those things is as important as the purpose they serve.
    The church does not exist to make its members fat and happy. Get rid of the church board of 137 people that vote on what kind of coffee to serve on Sunday morning and just go reach people. There I said it.

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  • Michael Tinkler
    November 13, 2006

    Of course, it might help if Halloween had anything to DO with harvests…but it doesn’t.
    All Saints (All Hallows) is not, in origins, a fall festival in the Catholic tradition – it started as a May-timed thing in the eastern Mediterranean.
    Harvest festivals in Great Britain are usually in September rather than late October/early November, which makes sense given their climate.
    Oh, well – it all depends on what you’re celebrating.

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  • matt
    November 16, 2006

    This is an excellent observation about church programs. As a pastor’s son, growing up in the church has been a way of life for me. I know what it means for church people to be kind of out of the loop of reality. It happens everywhere, not just in that one fall festival. It’s almost like we’ve been brainwashed to talk a certain way around certain people. I’m not quite sure what the relevance of that is, but sometimes I know it makes me want to throw up. I think it’s a dangerous place to be for a church because it can definitely come across as a superiority complex for non-believers. I’ve seen it all too many times, a woman is talking to someone who is not a believer and she thinks she’s doing them a favor by listening and making churchy remarks, when all she is doing is appearing extremely fake. There’s a fine line in that aspect of Christianity. We need to keep ourselves in check with things such as this so we stay relevant to society while still holding strong to our beliefs. Don’t simply converse with someone because you feel you have to, do it because you actually want to know what’s going on in their lives. Believe me, I spent a lot of my childhood and youth years faking my way through relationships with others because I felt I had to. It’s a church thing where we can only say certain words and can only act a certain way. Jesus spent most of his time hanging out with and teaching those people who no one else liked. Do you think for one second that they would want to talk to Him if He spoke to them like they were beneath him? Jesus was and is relevant, we as a church need to do a better job of making him relevant in our world.

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  • Nicole W
    December 1, 2006

    Yes, I agree that church people are weird. I have not read the original post, but I love Vinny’s post last month:
    “Personally I don’t think our biggest problem is that we do things that make us look weird, but that we are creating events for US while saying they are actually for THEM. I have yet to see a church that in the same event can be relevant to the culture and the sensibilities of non-Christians, and at the same time have anything meaningful to offer the mature faithful. Perhaps that is what Church Marketing Sucks is all about?”
    I think our best answer lies in studying the life and work of Christ. Did people think he was weird? Yes. Were sinners and the hurting drawn to him and his compassion and grace? Yes. Much like Christ, I think we need to stop worrying about the ‘Club Members’ (good church goers who run our ministries, etc.) and take the message out to the world in a language they understand – just like Christ did. We need to stop catering to our club members and truly reach out into our communities. Maybe that’s where deepening the faith of the faithful truly happens?

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  • Sarah
    March 1, 2007

    I love topics like these. They challenge me to look outside the box of my thinking and evaluate my hearts motive.
    Christians are going to be weird/different if we are living as God called us to; but it is that difference that is going to draw people to us not away from us. I think it is good to take a long hard look and decided which category we fall into.

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