People Gotta Know

May 6, 2008 by

AssumeEarlier this week my wife and I were part of a conversation with a handful of churches brought together in Northeast Los Angeles. Those present were about as eclectic as you could get: inter-denominational, multi-generational, multi-ethnic and people from every part of the socioeconomic spectrum. We had come to discuss how our individual churches could unite together and be one church community within our city, particularly as it relates to addressing issues of poverty, homelessness, education and other hot topics confronting us. Unfortunately, this was an historic moment for churches in Northeast Los Angeles.

In response to how we could broaden the conversations we were having on this night to the rest of the people in our church communities, an elder in the room stood up. Tony was from one of the nearby Catholic parishes responsible for the only 7-day-a-week feeding program in the area. They’ve gone from feeding a handful of people to nearly 150 every day for lunch, and dinner on Friday nights.

You can imagine my surprise when Tony said the majority of people in their parish did not know their own feeding ministry exists. “In spite of printing something in the bulletin every week,” said Tony, “our own people have no idea what’s going on.” Many others in the room nodded in sympathetic frustration. The collective sigh sounded like this: “How could we get others in our church on board with social justice topics when it seems like very few others even care?”

Stop assuming people get it. This problem is far too common which is why it’s number three on my list of common communication mistakes. It’s not that people don’t care, it’s that you and I don’t care enough to make sure they know what to care about. Pick the top 4-6 things your church is really passionate about and invested in. If you can’t pull at random people from your congregation and have them say the same things, we’ve got a problem.

Now what are you going to do about it? People gotta know.

Post By:

Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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7 Responses to “People Gotta Know”

  • Paul
    May 6, 2008

    What if addressing poverty is not one of the top 4-6 things these churches are really passionate about?
    I mean some of the churches that were represented in that meeting are probably pretty large. They probably have Sunday services, Sunday school or discipleship classes, small groups, children’s ministry, and youth group. Perhaps they have men’s ministry, women’s minsitry, missions ministry, and so on.
    I guess the question I’m posing is… is every church called to serve the poor or is it OK for some churches not to serve the poor and instead choose to focus in another area where they are more passionate and can be more effective?

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  • Nathan A
    May 6, 2008

    I think churches that focus too much on “me-too” ministries tend not to get anything done and they generally end in entropy. They might go strong for a while, but they die eventually. This isn’t always true, but an outward focus is always best. Sometimes this manifests itself in support ministries, in youth ministries, in marriage ministries (but not PACs!) and in community ministries.
    I think the post-modern church sees this in greater clarity than the modern one, and although I don’t see much wrong with either model myself I feel that the church is shifting away from the “feel good” Christianity of yester-year back into the idea that it’s not all about you and what makes you feel good. I think God sums it up nicely through the profit Isaiah, in Isaiah 58. Self-satisfying faith looks and feels great but it isn’t where God wants us to be.
    I’ve witnessed a lot of bad theology borne out of the idea that you have a personal relationship with God. I don’t mind feeling that way and quite honestly there’s nothing wrong it. What’s wrong is when people extrapolate that that’s all you need. It isn’t, I’d argue that if works are not following faith and relationship the latter doesn’t exist or is in some kind of stasis.
    This, to me, is why external out-ward focused ministries should be at the heart of the church. This is often how I go about getting a feel for where a church really is at. If an outward focus isn’t there or isn’t strong, something is amiss.

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  • Brian Jones
    May 6, 2008

    I was just talking about this a few weeks ago with my staff. I think our problem is overcommunication on too many things and too little passion for a few things. Thanks for the kick in the rear.
    Brian Jones

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  • Larry
    May 6, 2008

    I recently did a wide-ranging study on poverty in the Bible, and from what I read it’s not a question if IF a particular church is called to serve the poor, but HOW. Is every church called to do evangelism, or is it okay for some churches to focus on some other area of passion where they can be more effective? Is every church called to prayer and Bible study, or is it okay for some to focus on other areas where they are more passionate?
    What this group experienced has more to do with how much our affluence has blinded us to those parts of the Bible that call us out. Christians in North America just don’t think about the poor, because we’re paying too much attention to those with more than us, instead of helping those with less.
    My little church is going through a radical rethinking of how we relate to the poor, and it started with the entire leadership team. We now have a group working to create opportunities to serve the poor and marginalized in society, and during this season they’ve been given a lot of attention, both at our weekend services and throughout our communications.
    People know what the church is passionate about. It’s what the leaders talk about.

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  • Jim
    May 7, 2008

    I do not think that every group will have the same passion, but if every group (church) picks out the 4 things they are the most passionalte about there will be amazing things that happen.
    The church I have been blessed to be at was very “us 4 and no more”, not in word but in action. We are now moving past that to see that there is a world dying without Christ and we need to be take the message to them in whatever way God calls us.
    Not every person has the same call and not every church will have the same call.

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  • Carlos
    May 7, 2008

    Great Post! I agree that every church should play a part outward ministry however, sometimes resources are limited. I believe if a church cannot assist with outward focus, they should hook up with an organization that is focused on such an outreach and give financial and moral support! Often times churches are pressured to do all things for all people and forget that we are a body of believers called to share and put in resources. One might excel in biblical doctrine and another in missions, some do well in social urban settings each being unique… If church “A” sees a need they should feel comfortable and confident enough to ask church “B” for help. Now if only we can get these churches to unite.

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  • Paul
    May 7, 2008

    Thanks for your comment/reply. I feel a real tension between trying to do everything and trying to do a few things well.
    In his original post, Brad wrote:
    “Pick the top 4-6 things your church is really passionate about and invested in. If you can’t pull at random people from your congregation and have them say the same things, we’ve got a problem.”
    From an organizational standpoint I agree with this. We’ve got to focus. If everything is important nothing is important.
    But then what is the reality of the typical American church today – there’s Sunday services, Bible studies, children’s ministry, youth ministry, men’s ministry, women’s ministry, family ministries, small groups, recovery ministry, evangelism, oversees missions, helping the poor, prison ministry, and more.
    If we’re to pick 4-6 things we’re really passionate about, which of those things gets left out?

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