A pastor was recently promoting a building and renovation program to raise money for it. I found one of his examples interesting, and, in all honesty, I have used similar tactics.
He drinks lots of sodas. The pastor noted how much more could be contributed to the building programs by limiting the number of soft drinks you consume each day. I was more taken by the number of drinks he consumed each day than the need to raise money for building renovation.
I used to consume a good number of cola drinks, and my special love was sweet iced tea. Today, I almost never drink soft drinks. Thus far this year, I have had two: I had to drink a ginger ale as part of my nuclear stress test, and I had a coke when I was given one on appreciate week at a public school. They didn’t taste as good as they used to. I’ve gotten used to not having them, and my favorite drink is actually ice cold water.
I’m a bit of a health nut. It’s interesting that the pastor’s motivation was to get commitments for a building program, and my mind focuses on the importance of good health and my staying the course.
But this also tells us a lot about preferences. We grow up with certain foods and music and a particular way of doing things. I still retain a lot of the taste in music I grew up with. I got a nice RCA radio for Christmas in 1969. While I enjoyed listening to different stations then, my preference quickly developed in the top 40 rock music of that time. I continued to enjoy the rock hits through the 1970s and 1980s. Later music I enjoyed was more limited. Certain selected songs I liked, but not everything within a particular format.
I became a believer in Jesus in 1973. That’s when I started going to church on a regular, frequent basis. Most congregations I tried out had the traditional hymns of that day, so I became used to those. A few years later I worked in Christian radio, and the music I played–we cued up records in those days–was mostly traditional. But on my own I discovered the contemporary Christian music of that day. My favorite group was the Second Chapter of Acts, especially their hit, “The Easter Song.”
Today, I enjoy moderately contemporary Christian music, though I still enjoy traditional hymns too. But my preferences have been shaped, but not totally different from my younger years.
My food preferences have changed considerably. My mother was the old styled southern cook. When she was done, vegetables had the life cooked out of them, and I really didn’t like them. Today, I like vegetables a lot, either raw or lightly steamed. I like crunchy veggies.
I used to enjoy friend foods and would still find them yummy, but health issues motivated me to change my tastes, so that today I avoid fried foods and eat what is baked or broiled, and I enjoy my food that way.
What we do in church applies. If we’ve been believers in Jesus and active in church for a long time, we may think that the way we’ve always done church is the way to always do it. I’ve been a Southern Baptist Pastor since 1984, but I didn’t grow up in that denomination. The thing I found interesting about those who grew up in the denomination is that what they defined as Southern Baptist was how their local congregation did things. And it certainly varied from congregation to congregation.
All of this relates to reaching unchurched people today. While we should definitely be biblical, we need to have flexibility in practices to reach unchurched individuals. We do need to uphold biblical standards, but also consider the preferences of the people we are seeking to reach. And this means that we may need to alter or stretch some of our preferences to reach people for Christ, discipleship, and church membership.
If you need help, I’m available for consultation.
Ashton C. Smith, Certified Church Consultant