As church leaders, we’re rarely taught to understand the variances between different people and cultures. I’m amazed that this part of the apostle Paul’s ministry isn’t pounded into us. His letters to the Galatians show us his handle on their struggles and mind-sets—which were clearly different from those he encountered in Corinth or Ephesus. He went beneath the surface to reach people right where they lived.
We must do the same if we hope to truly minister to people. This isn’t about “church relevance” or feeling hip by naming a series after the latest movie. It’s about understanding what makes people tick. Unfortunately, the average pastor is more strapped with keeping the ship afloat than devoting time to understanding who is and who isn’t in his church. This load eats away at one of a pastor’s strongest assets for meeting people where they are—exposure. Like Paul, the more you are exposed to different patterns of living, the more you’re able to get a clearer vision of what you’re dealing with.
Know Your Strengths
Part of the challenge is that we rarely understand our congregants in their day-to-day context. We know that Bob is an outgoing volunteer at church, but we never discover that he’s actually an introvert who’s challenged in social settings in his everyday life. Does this matter? You bet! It explains why Bob has never invited anyone from work to church.
Do you reach Bobs? To understand the types of people attending your church, start by looking at your community and defining who is not coming. When you think of the church down the road, what kind of people go there? Now look at your members. What are some of their common attributes—social, economic, demographic? Knowing whom you resonate with is key to understanding your strengths.
Know Your Calling
But knowing whom you reach the best isn’t enough. Paul was a mega-Jew—certainly good at reaching them. Still, deep down he considered himself an apostle called to the gentiles.
When you find an intersection between your strengths and your calling, you have a sense of your target. If you fail to consider this key issue of target audience, however, what remains is a watered-down pursuit of all with a church full of people whom you have little ability and little heart to reach.
This is why it’s so important to ask yourself whom you’re targeting—and why. Following God’s calling for your church might require that you accept that God can use other churches to help reach those you might not be able to.
Know Your Target
Knowing your target strengthens your resolve and clarifies your methods. Finding a target results from being open to understanding people and hearing God’s voice. He is crying out for all of them. He has equipped you with a unique gifting for reaching certain ones.
The method (how you actually “do” church) follows the target—not the other way around. This is the most important thing. When you know the target, the secondary questions—How long should we worship? What should our logo look like?—fall into place. Once you know whom you’re pursuing, how to pursue them becomes much easier.
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