The Post Attractional Church

 Photo: Smart Magazine

Photo: Smart Magazine

Twelve Steppers

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day at our church who is a longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous. Our church hosts a variety of Twelve Step groups like AA. I was asking my friend for some advice on how we, as a church could do a better job of promoting them, as I didn't see them listed anywhere on our marketing materials.

Thinking like I often do, placing far too much emphasis on print and electronic media, I didn't even consider for a second that my questions were in complete opposition to the way that AA and other Twelve Step groups work.

My friend (being the gracious person that he is) smiled and said, "There's a saying in AA. We gain new members by attraction, not promotion."

Though my friend probably didn't think of his response as enlightening, to me, it was. I only wish I'd have heard it long ago, as I think it speaks to an unhealthy trend that is at work in the church today.

 

Convenience

With the rise of the internet and social media platforms, it seems that we've forgotten this lesson that AA and other Twelve Step groups have continued to make a regular practice.

Unfortunately, many churches have moved on from the age of "attraction" into the age of "promotion."

What I mean by that is, we've removed the "personal" when making known who we are, what we are, and why we exist.

Twenty years ago, if you wanted to know something about a church (any church) you had to have a conversation with an actual human being, whether in person or over the phone.

Today, we get the info that we seek about churches from the impersonal- a meme, a tweet, a website, or an aggregator. Talking to another human being about God, faith, or church is even considered, by some, to be improper or impolite.

For the record, I don't think it's good practice to bring up the topic of faith with complete strangers. But there are those in the broader circle of my life who I know I've overlooked when they were wanting information from me about my faith.

The truth is, I missed their signals because I was thinking, "If they want info, they'll find our website." But they didn't want to get the info from our website. They wanted to have a conversation with me.

It's what The Apostle Paul was trying to get across when he wrote:

Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Not written with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives.
— 2 Corinthians 3:2

Don't get me wrong. I think the "promotional" does a lot of good. One can get information more quickly, and if the person searching is more introverted, the promotional can provide a necessary level of anonymity and comfort that they need in order to explore. But I also think its essential that the church not lose it's personal touch with people solely for the sake of convenience or (God forbid) so that they don't have to deal directly with people altogether. After all, the business of the church is one thing and one thing only— loving people.


 
 Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.  Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.  Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.  Ryan is an  INTJ  on the MBTI and a  5w4  on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps is the Senior Minister at Church In Bethesda.

Raised in the church, becoming a pastor was the one thing Ryan vowed he would never do. After spending many years away from faith, he found that for all of its flaws, the church can still occupy a unique place of good in the world if it is willing to evolve with reason and empathy.

Ryan has a special place in his heart for those who have been damaged or disillusioned by the church, and longs to lead those within it toward a more just and generous expression of itself.

Ryan is an INTJ on the MBTI and a 5w4 on the Enneagram.

Ryan Phipps