I have continued to think about our recent Christmas Eve services, now from the perspective of how we do church. Only God knows the true impact of those services, and whether people who were truly lost and hurting found their way to the American Airlines Center. Many people think that the larger a church is, the more it is focused soley on numbers and size.
At Fellowship, our focus is not on size but on serving seekers and building believers or, simply, life change. We want to be a haven for lost and broken people, a place where lives and relationships can be rebuilt. As our Pastor Ed Young often says, our church is a hospital full of sinners. The next time you see or hear a piece of church marketing, ask yourself "Is this designed to reach the unconvinced or the already convinced?" I regularly receive mailers from local churches and pass impressive billboards around the Dallas/Ft.Worth Metroplex and so often come to the conclusion that the only people these advertisements appeal to are Christians. I find it hard to imagine how a non-believer would relate to the wording and imagery.
We welcome anyone who would like to become a part of Fellowship, including Christians looking for a new church home, but if our primary focus was on attracting the already convinced, we would fall far short of what God has called the church to be.
I am not part of the inner conversations of our church leadership, but I would imagine that one appealing aspect of utilizing the AAC was the neutral ground principle. I expect that many people who would be very hesitant to step foot inside a church would be slightly more open to attending an event at a basketball arena. But what would they find when they walked through the doors?
A church service.
Of all the big and small how we do church principles at Fellowship, this is my favorite. Let me be as a clear as possible before I begin - this is methodology, not theology! Every church has to make this call for themselves and there are wonderful reasons for both approaches. I do not have any problems with churches that do otherwise, I just love Fellowship for what we do.
And what is that? On Easter and Christmas, our service is nearly identical to the 50 other weekends each year. Do we put our best foot forward and bring out all the stops? Absolutely. But the experience is completely familiar to those who attended the week before, or who return the week after. There are ushers and greeters and a weekend bulletin. There are first-class videos and music. There are moments when we stand and worship together. There is a 30 minute message from Ed and an offering.
It is not a Christmas musical or a Passion play. There are no live animals or cast of thousands. There are no tickets for sale or assigned seating.
Why does this matter? Because if the Holy Spirit has led someone to give church a try for the first time, I want them to get a taste of church. Do I want them to be blown away? Absolutely. But I want them to think, "That was amazing... I wonder what next weekend will be like?" And when they show up the following weekend, I want them to feel like they were shown a true reflection of the church.