Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2016 May 30
The church was on a busy street, and out front was a sign reaching out to passers-by about its new weekend sermon series.
One large word was emblazoned on the sign:
Then the weekend service time of 10:30 a.m. was printed below.
That was it.
I want that church’s outreach efforts to work for them. I want people to learn about the book of Galatians, and every other book of the Bible. And I love the book of Galatians – every Holy Spirit-inspired word of it.
But there were so many foundational outreach missteps, represented in this one simple sign, that I couldn’t help but heave a sigh of frustration.
Let’s just list three:
- The word “Galatians” on a sign outside of a church, designed for people driving by in cars in a post-Christian world, means nothing. Actually, that’s wrong. It does mean something. Something weird. What is a “galatian”? Is it something the church does, something they want me to do, a self-help program, a rhyme for “salutations”? Is it like “martians” and you want me to be alarmed that they are coming? All to say, it isn’t going to be something that connects with, much less attracts, non-Christians.
- Since such a sign is clearly oriented toward transfer growth, they are exerting outreach effort for one very small segment of the Christian population. Those who: a) happen to drive by; b) are unhappy with their current church and/or looking for a church home; and c) have a keen interest in one of the less “sexy” and theologically dense New Testament books. This is a small target group for an outreach effort. Translation: not the most effective use of a sign for what is probably a cash-strapped church.
- If you are going to do a series on Galatians, and you want to use it as an outreach tool, then call it something that will either: a) describe the book’s most compelling theme to those who might be open to spiritual exploration; or b) package it as an opportunity to dig in and study the Bible. Again, anything but simply slapping “Galatians” up on a sign as if that is going to bring them in. It won’t.
Of course, the larger issue is who the church should be trying to reach when it makes an outreach effort. There is only one biblical target: those outside of the church and far from God.
That is the Great Commission.
You welcome everyone and pursue all of the purposes of the church as the body of Christ, but when you throw open your doors for outreach, the Bible only knows one word:
And “Galatians” on your sign isn’t going to be very effective.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.