I recently met a young woman I’ll call Katie. She is 23 years old and a single mom. She has two sons by two different fathers. She lives alone and struggles to put food on the table and a roof over their head. She is also a repeated victim of domestic violence.
Katie asked me an odd question. She asked if I knew of a church that would “allow” her to attend. I asked her why she thought some churches would not allow her to attend. She told me she had never been baptized and she also could not afford to pay the “ten percent dues.” I asked her why she thinks baptism and tithing are required to attend a church. She said “That’s what I heard.” So Katie and I had about a 90-minute conversation. I learned a lot about her and the communities of faith in my own home town.
I learned that Katie grew up in my town. She went to high school with my kids. I also learned that everything Katie knew about faith and communities of faith she learned from the culture.
Katie did not know what salvation was and that she could have eternal life. She did not know that Jesus died on a cross for her. She did not know that Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. She had never heard about Moses, Abraham, David, Peter or Paul. She did not know what Pentecost is, Advent, or Lent. She could not name an apostle or a book of the Bible.
As troubling as this is, what is more concerning is what she thought she knew. She thought/knew that “some” churches hate gay people, women, minorities and immigrants. She thought/knew that some churches require ten percent of her income to attend and others would not let her speak because she is a woman.
How could this be? She grew up in the same town as me and my family. She went to the same schools as my kids and knew many of the same people. And yet she had this perverted view of the Church. How could this be? It’s simple:
The culture is lying well and the Church is telling the truth badly.
I live in a town of about 40,000 people. In this town there are 43 churches. At least that is how many I counted in the phone book. And Katie did not know one believer. No one had ever told her about Jesus and His saving grace. She did not have a single positive impression or anecdote of the body of Christ all the while surrounded by people and churches where “everyone is welcome” and who say they love Jesus.
I think we are all pretty familiar with how the culture is “lying well.” But how is the Church “telling the truth badly”?
If Katie lived in your town (and there are Katies in every town), how would your church and Katie connect? How is your church “reaching out” to Katie? How is your church living the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all people? Sitting alone in her apartment, lonely and scared, how would your church let Katie know she is loved?
How do we solve it?
Look at all of your church’s communication and connection channels. Which ones are designed to reach and connect with Katie? If she is not on your mailing list, how would she read your newsletter? If she did not attend a worship service, how would she see your church bulletin? Hear the announcements? Meet the people at your connection center?
If Katie did show up, how would you know? Whose job was it this past Sunday to reach out and connect with Katie? If Katie did not make the first move (assuming she knew what move to make), how would your church find Katie and connect with her?
For most churches in America, the answer to the above questions is “We wouldn’t.” The truth is most churches quit reaching out years ago and don’t even know it.
How can that be true?
As much as we might hate to admit it, the odds are pretty good that there is a Katie living in the neighborhood around your church. She can see your church from her front door. She is desperate and your church can help her if you will just reach out to her.
Katie needs to connect with the body of Christ now. So reach out to her now.
Jesus promised to be with us as we go and make disciples of all people. He promised us and He empowered us. We have to make the first move. We have to reach out first. We have to find Katie. We have to go. We have to do something and we have to do it first.
So what do we do and how do we do it? I implore you to do something. Do anything. If you don’t know where to start, I suggest you pick up a copy of the best-selling book Connect. In it, you will find 28 things you can do that will help you reach out and connect with Katie. You will find 28 things your church can do right now to find Katie and reach out to her. The book even offers to give you your money back if you try it and your church doesn’t grow.
Jesus promised if the Church would make the first move to “Go and make disciples of all people,” He would go with us; always and forever. I’m going to reach out to Katie today. I’m going to help her find a church (I’ll probably start with mine). What about you?
This post originally ran in Church Growth Magazine where Don Corder is a contributing author.