Those of you who read this blog regularly know I’m a huge fan of Larry Osborne. Not only is he generous with his time in mentoring young turkeys like me, he may be the smartest “nuts and bolts” church guy I’ve ever encountered.
North Coast Church in Vista, California, prided itself on being the biggest church with the “crappiest campus.” They weren’t kidding. The old North Coast campus was rather invisible and underwhelming to the eye. To boot, they didn’t advertise. They were a word-of-mouth church.
I once heard Larry do an abridged version of a talk I think he called, “From Attendees to Advocates.” There was one practical observation he made that became huge for me. He talked about the importance of making advocates of people who were merely attendees. Many people who attend churches simply attend them because they like them like they like an old pair of shoes or their buddy who is their insurance agent. They know he’s not the best, but he’s your buddy, so you use him. He’s slow returning your calls and his rates are a little higher than you could get on the open market, but you use him because he’s your buddy.
Essentially, Larry suggested, that’s how many people relate to their church. They do so out of a sense of duty. So, they keep coming…they just don’t invite anyone or speak about it very often outside the church building. Many churches view that as success…Get a person to church and get them to keep coming. Make an attendee out of them. Perhaps there’s some victory there. But, what a limp one. What if we tried to cultivate a culture where people were naturally advocates for the church?
For the record (this is me talking), people actually wanting to attend a church because they hear it’s a good church isn’t consumerism. It’s a normal way a person discerns where they might want to start their search for God. If I ask someone tells me about a good book they’ve read and I buy it and read it…it doesn’t make a gluttonous “consumer.” For them to share it with me doesn’t make them “attractional” (be sure to say it in a pejorative tone). It makes us both normal. It’s how good things go viral. It’s how we share things with one another. It’s one of the ways (if not the primary way) churches grow.
This of course raises the question of how a church creates such a culture. But for now, let’s ask a couple of questions:
- What percentage of people in your church are attendees vs. advocates? How about in Christendom as a whole?
- Why do you think many Christians shy away from inviting people to their church? Cowardess, apathy, attendeeitis, or something else?