I’m hanging out this morning with some of the ELI guys at their Cultivate gathering at Gateway Community Church in Austin Texas. Vince Antonucci just shared some great reminders on “Principles of Programming for People far from God”. Vince, who left his mega church post in Virginia to plant a church in Las Vegas, is author of “I Became a Christian and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.”
Before I get into the list, let me remind you (as Vince did) that context is everything. We simply can’t hear and apply. We have to hear the heart behind the principle and apply in our context. Vince also admitted that these are fairly simple thoughts, but rarely will we find a church that applies all of them.
Also a reminder: This list is primarily about our church POSTURE at our Sunday gatherings (From a creative and intentional level). However, some of the principles can certainly be applied to any environment where we might be evaluating our posture in regard to sharing the Gospel. In fact, thinking about those daily-life moments might help inform how we should shape our weekend efforts (See #3).
Principles of Programming for People far from God
1. Unfolding Arms principle: figuratively and literally. Unchurched are coming already thinking, “I don’t like church, someone told me this is different. Prove it. Quick.”
2. Wear their Shoes principle: Try and get in their head to understand what they are experiencing and thinking when they come to your church.
3. Guest for Dinner principle: Treat visitors at your church like you would treat a guest who came over for diner. The fact that they ARE there might change how we do things (not to get them to come). Some things we won’t change, but we’ll offer the courtesy to explain it. (1 Cor. 14:23)
4. Joe DiMaggio principle: Center fielder for Yankees. Famous for hustling to “weird” degrees.Teammates would job to field, Joe would sprint. Always sprinted to first, even when out, even when walk. Interview: Why? Answer: because I know in every game I play there is some kid who it’s their first time to see me and I want them to see what’s right. In the same way, every Sunday, we know there is at least one new person there. If it’s their first time to come back to church, what is it that you want them to see?
5. Check your influences principle: Who are your influences in shaping your weekend gathering? We all have influences. Most of them come with models. Who are they? Hopefully our main influence is God (Theology). In all those areas that have been left undefined or a-biblical, our influences should be non-churches.
6. Use their Culture principle: (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Paul speaking at Mars Hill, quotes poets, compliments their religious culture. Use a their culture to break down walls. Purpose is not to change who you are, but to break down walls.
7. Don’t use your Culture principle: Your assumptions will create your crowd. The words you say in your message, between your songs, introductions… Ask yourself the quesiton: What do my words assume? Speak to the chairs. Explain “The Bible Says…” Our service is still for Christians (it’s not Seeker)… yet we still CONSIDER who’s listening. It’s not FOR seekers, but we recognize they are there so we EXPLAIN everything. Communion, Ephesians, offering. (They’re little, but they add up)
8. Authenticity principle: The unchurched and the dechurched are coming in with the questions: Why should I listen to you? Are you anything like me? Do you even know what I’m dealing with? Can you relate? Because I need you to relate for me to relate. So, share who you are. Personal stories: I have a past. I struggle in the present. I have hope in the future.
9. Love principle: Do you really think non-christians think, man I need a really good rock band, need to laugh, etc… I’m gonna get up early and go to church. Those things are important, but they can get it other places. What they can’t get from SNL, at a comedy club, or a concert is LOVE. Instead, they need to know there is a zero percent chance I’m gonna get judged here. All things must flow from this place.