What Makes a Church “Attractive?”

What really makes a church attractive? Stained Glass6

In our western culture, much of how churches reach out to prospective members is through marketing. Some churches even begin with a budget that devotes half of its assets to marketing!  Many of today’s worship services are driven by thousands up to millions of dollars in audio & visual production costs.

Buildings are also an “attractive” emphasis for some churches. Style and function are the focus on building programs that also require incredible amounts of money. Often churches seem to take on a “if you build it, they will come” approach to being attractive.

There are many other factors that can go into the conversation: worship style, preaching style, clothing style, service times, ministry programs, Sunday School or small groups, and so on and so on.

The truth is, many people in our culture are drawn to these things – what they find to be attractive. Our church culture has become consumer-driven, and the church members have morphed into consumers. As ministers we see people come and go, many times based on the factors discussed above. People want to go to a church that has the things they like and where they can feel comfortable.

Are we getting it right? What really makes a church attractive? 

Looking back at the first churches in the New Testament, what did they have? There were no multi-million dollar budgets, no buildings, no lights, no sound, and no marketing budget. They couldn’t advertise – they would get arrested! Still, they saw transformation, growth, missions, community change, and movements of the Holy Spirit that would shock the world today.

Acts 2:42-47: 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

For the early church, they were “attractive” because of the transformational community of the believers. People saw the change that Christ can make in a life, and they saw the true love of God between the believers. That’s what makes a church attractive – real change & real love.

Not only did the early church demonstrate this, but the New Testament writers continually wrote about it and instructed the believers to practice it. Here are just a few of many examples:

  • Acts 11:19-26: The church at Antioch demonstrated their transformation in such a way that those outside the church gave them the title “Christian,” identifying them with Christ
  • Galatians 6:10: Do good to all, especially the household of faith
  • Ephesians 4:26-32: Build up the community of faith, not tear it down
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11: Encourage and build up one another
  • 1 Peter 4:7-11: Our love for one another glorifies God
  • James 2:14-17: How we take care of each other’s needs in our church demonstrates God’s love to others

Why is the transformation of the Holy Spirit and the love of God so attractive? Because everyone is created in the image of God, and deep inside of all of us we long to be a part of the way things God intended them to be. That is what changes people. Impressive marketing, grandiose worship production, and beautiful buildings do not transform lives.

I’m not saying that buildings, sound systems, lights, even advertising is a bad thing. Using these things to glorify God is smart and effective. They are great tools in leading people to follow Christ and be like Him. We must always remember, however, that what really makes a church attractive has not changed in 2000 years, nor will it ever be different.

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What We Can Learn from NBC’s “Community” about Community and Christians – Acts 2:42-47

One of my favorite TV shows is “Community” on NBC. It all starts when a lawyer, Jeff Winger, was disbarred for having a fake bachelor’s degree. Forced to attend community college to earn his degree, he forms a Spanish study group trying to impress a girl. What starts as an attempt to win the affections of a young woman turns into a true community of people, all truly different, becoming a family.

How does this relate to Christians and Community? Yes, the show has humor that can be risqué and some may be critical, but there is a valuable principle we can learn from the study group of Jeff, Shirley, Annie, Abed, Troy, Brita, and Pierce (and maybe Chang?). Take a look at what the Church looked like when it started in Acts 2:42-47:

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

There is something extremely clear in these verses: these people were a family. Do our churches look like this today? Do we share each other’s burdens, financially and emotionally? Do we spend time with each other or just attend church and maybe Sunday School?

The study group in Community shows us this dynamic. They are more than just fellow classmates or study partners; they are a family. Make no mistake, there is plenty of conflict (usually every show) and some people are more annoying than others (usually Pierce and Chang), but still these people are a family. They work through the conflict and become stronger and love each other more because of it. They need each other. Life is more than just going to school for them.

This year we changed our College Worship service from “Impact” to “Community,” and yes, I was very inspired by the show to do so. We had become so driven to provide a worship service and give something people could come to, but we were missing the connecting believers to one another. Community gave us a new purpose to not just worship together, but live life together. You will also notice in the verses from Acts 2 that those who did not know Christ saw this family and wanted to know Jesus and be a part. That should also be important to us! We should be able to, as churches, to connect lost people to our communities so they can “see” how Jesus brings us together.

About a year ago I wrote some sermons about how the Church is not just important; it’s essential. Much of what we learn about the Church from the Bible is that God created it for community, and He created us for community as well! The Church is not a business or social/civic group. The Church is a community – it is a family!