Demographic Experts Lead the Church Astray

coin purseWhat does the modern Christian look like?

Wait! Don’t answer that question! Not yet!

I’m reminded of a song we learned as children—probably taught by my missionary grandparents.

Just around the corner lives a stranger child.
Did you smile at him? Were you kind to him?
Did you tell her of the one who loves us all?
Father, Comforter and Friend.

Evangelism is a simple concept that the Church complicates.

The simple formula:

  • You welcome whomever comes through your door.
  • You tell your story to anyone willing to listen.
  • You meet people where they are.
  • You invite.
  • You help.

This is easier for missionaries because they accept themselves as the stranger. They understand that everyone they talk to is coming from a different place.

Congregations, on the other hand, look for community. The search for community leads us to people like us.

The Gospel tells us this is wrong. Most of the gospel is one story after another about reaching out to people with whom we are unlikely to associate—except for our faith.

We are birds of a feather. We naturally flock together.

If we don’t believe it, there are church consultants ready to educate us.

“The demographics do not support having a ministry here”—as if the communities they are addressing exist in a wasteland. They’ll be careful when they explain. They don’t want to seem judgmental or aloof or—well, racist.

They’ll point to census reports on household income, etc. This is what they mean: The people like you have fled to the suburbs. Whoops, they forgot their wallets! We’ll help you with that.

This is an adoption of slumlord thinking. Taking from neighborhoods replaces any shred of caring and giving.

There is plenty of mission work to be done.

Church leaders have so narrowly defined their job descriptions that they don’t leave room for mission anymore. Mission work requires creativity and edginess. 

It is the reason we exist.

The economics of church paralyze us and stand between us and our future.

Demographic experts don’t know more than we. We know our neighborhoods. We are all too willing to pay our dwindling offering money to justify failure—and this includes the failure of church leaders.

What do modern Christians look like? Look around. They are closer than you think.

Just around the corner lives a stranger child . . . 

Here is a skit you might enjoy acting out on Stewardship Sunday.