Church Resources Will Bankrupt You

I just received a current copy of the church magazine Outreach, and I’m torn between depression and curiosity. My church just doesn’t fit most of the advice or help found in the articles or the ads. I’m sure most of what’s in the magazine is helpful to a lot of churches of varying types, but, would to God there were more churches like mine and help for us.

This particular issue claimed to be a Resource Guide for Small Church America- Suburban, Rural, and Urban. I wonder already at the cover what their definition of a small church is.

A huge two page advertisement was on the opening pages. It spoke of “the church database you have always dreamed of”. Honestly, I’ve never dreamed of a church database ever in my life. The ad is really pretty but doesn’t look like it offers anything I can’t do with Microsoft Excel. I’m wary of programs like this anyway. They’re usually only useful for one thing and you have to keep paying for the updated versions if you want to keep using all the information you’re entered in over the years. At least Excel is useful for other things as well. I don’t mind having to update it every decade or so.

I guess I’ll just have to do without “everything else you need to manage your church”. I already have Excel on my computer for my business anyway, and not buying this software will save me $49 a month. $49 a month would take up the total offerings for several of my members.

Outreach magazine is really nothing more than a print version of the Outreach marketing catalog, which sells all kinds of materials including bulletins, signs, and small group studies. From what I’ve seen they’re one of the largest distributors for small group studies and materials associated with popular Christian movies.

Years ago when the movie Fireproof came out, me and my wife really got on board promoting it. It was the first time I’d ever heard of or been involved with a Christian movie accompanied by a large marketing rollout through the churches. My wife and I bought 50 tickets to it and gave them out. We also purchased the small group study associated with the film and participated in it at the church we attended at that time. We had a great time with our participation and loved the movie.

Then the Christian movie industry went into overkill mode. Now it seems like there’s a new Christian movie premiere every month with the producers expecting churches to jump wholeheartedly on the bandwagon with each one. Each one also has its own small group study or main sermon materials. I could focus on only working through these movie sermons and never have to really preach again.

I fear that this will eventually flame out with both Christians and open-minded folks. Maybe it’s time for the movies to take a low key approach and even let people enjoy them without the hard sell evangelism. If the movie’s good, it’ll speak for itself.

SermonCentral.com seems to be a pretty cool website to visit as a Pastor…if you don’t ever want to bother preparing your own sermons. After all, Pastors are busy people. What Pastor needs to waste time waiting for God to speak through him through diligent sermon preparation and Bible study when they can just go to a website and download next week’s sermon and a few more for every Sunday for the next 15 years. God has to be okay with this because it saves time, right? I think I just saved my church another $15 a month by not needing this and by instead putting those homiletics classes from seminary to good use.

There’s a thing called the Old Testament LIVE Event that says it’s “designed for any size church”. I don’t know. Every time I check out one of these programs that’s good for anyone, I tell them about my church, and the first words out of their mouth are, “would it be possible for you to partner with another church on this?” Come on, guys, don’t use your marketing material like this. Like the title of one of Seth Godin’s books, All Marketers Are Liars, it apparently holds true for Christian marketing as well.

So far, in this magazine, I’ve not see a single guy with a beard.

Looks like a guy named Nelson Searcy is running something called the Renegade Pastors Network. Apparently, their mission is “to abandon average and reclaim a life of impact and excellence”. So it’s not really truly a group of renegade Pastors, unless you consider just trying to not be average as a renegade frame of mind. I saw the title, and I was looking for something more, like Pastors challenging the way traditional corporate churches are run or maybe Pastors running against the massive media conglomerations known as megachurches. It looks more like a group for Pastors who want to be more like those guys. Not sure Renegade is the right title for it. Maybe Lemming works better. Anyway, if you want to join him at RenegadePastors.com, he says he can increase your stewardship offerings. I’m sure that would help you build a bigger building because God wants all churches to be inside big buildings. If they’re not, they must not be serving Him good enough.

What in the world is National Back to Church Sunday? I’m afraid Outreach is going the Hallmark route and inventing holidays just to sell stuff. Apparently a certain Sunday in September is the big day you’re supposed to invite all the heathen in the community back to church. Then you don’t have to mess with it the rest of the year. If I were one of those unchurched heathens, I’d feel weird going back on this special day, because I’d kind of stick out. What would I say anyway, “Your back to church holiday looked so cool with the balloons and t-shirts and stuff that I just had to come back.” I could follow that up with, “I’ll see you again at Christmas.”

If you’re not saturating your neighborhoods with sanctified postcards, then you’re not doing good church marketing.

There’s an ad for a new book called Replant from Mark Devine and Darrin Patrick that looks pretty good. It’s about revitalizing dying churches. There are about 300 of those within a few miles of my house (I’m in the Bible Belt) that could use this book. I used to work for a church that I know could definitely use it. I’m sure the book is good, but one has to wonder how much of a culprit is the dying traditional corporate church structure that so many churches assume is holy simply because it’s been done that way for so long.

Just a dozen pages in I’ve seen lots of mentions of Ed Stetzer’s name or articles or quotes from him. I know he’s associated with Lifeway, which is basically a Southern Baptist front. Now I’m wondering if Outreach is another Southern Baptist front as well? This whole thing seems a bit like all of the banks and charities that were closed down after 9/11 because they were funding sources for terrorist groups. I’m not saying that Lifeway and the Southern Baptists are terrorists, but be open about things and who’s really behind the funding. Please don’t take that to mean I’m denigrating Ed either. I’ve read some of his stuff, and it’s top notch.

I heard a story one time about the women’s products in the Lifeway stores. If you go in, you’ll notice that Beth Moore has an entire section all her own, but there are no Joyce Meyer books to be found anywhere. It’s because Meyer proclaims herself as a preacher and the Southern Baptists don’t allow no woman preachers in their pulpits. Beth Moore, on the other hand, proclaims to only speak to women. It’s really all just a lie, because both she and the Southern Baptists know that her small group studies are popular with the guys too. I’ve sat through several of them, and they’re really good. I also heard her live once, and she really can preach good. Since the live event had both men and women in it, it was said that she was a speaker and not a preacher, so that made it okay for me to listen, according to the Southerns. Words really do make the difference don’t they?

Ed said in his article about assessments that “most churches in the world (and throughout history) are small. The size of a church does not determine its health.” He went on to say that “being small is normal in the kingdom”. It all sounded good and made me feel better about the size of my small church until I realized he was just trying to convince me to buy Transformational Church Assessment Tools from Lifeway.

A World Vision ad proclaims that “we believe in children”, but I’m just not so sure I believe it when I look at their CEO’s salary. It’s more of a belief in money with kids as the secondary mission.

Since when did fauxhawks and skinny jeans become the official youth pastor uniform?

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with this for now- examine your church and what they do. Examine the why and the who. Then go back and make sure it’s Biblical and not just traditional.

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