Gaining an Audience to Hear the Word
I wonder if Peter thought Jesus was crazy.
An experienced fisherman, he knew where and when fish were most likely to be caught. When Jesus told him to go back into the deep waters and throw the net out, it was probably the stupidest idea he had ever heard. Worn out and exhausted from a long day of catching nothing, Peter was probably in no mood to try an idea that he thought had little chance of succeeding.
Especially from a carpenter!
“But because you say so, [Peter replied] I will let down the nets.”Luke 5:5
When hearing the call to proclaim the Good News, disheartened, seasoned believers can balk like Peter. Holding an empty net in their hands after another outreach event, they look at paltry results and empty pews and mutter, “What’s the point? Nothing seems to work.”
And then they hear a crazy idea.
“You want me to go out into the deep waters of this world to throw a net? You want me to talk to unchurched people who appear to be disinterested, disengaged, and disrespectful of organized religion?” Worn out and exhausted, they think to themselves, “Nobody cares. They are not going to listen! Trust me, there are no fish to catch!”
“But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5)
In this oversaturated world with information overflow, there are many nets in the water already. Fake news, click bait, and empty promises routinely snag unsuspecting browsers.
Companies and start-ups struggle to capture the attention of potential buyers. The successful ones who are separating themselves from others are painstakingly building credibility – a reputation of quality. They call this “branding”. It’s not about designing an attractive logo but gaining an audience by delivering on promises one customer at a time.
Gaining an audience to hear God’s Word is a mighty struggle.
People are disengaging themselves from the church for a variety of reasons. Many of them have had bad experiences at church or have observed professing Christians behaving badly. The next generation is rejecting their parent’s notion that they must go to church for the sake of going to church. The perceived brand of a church is unwelcoming, judgmental, money-hungry and irrelevant.
It’s not that the Word no longer works, but the Word is struggling to get out.
What are some ways for churches to gain an audience to hear the Word?
We gain an audience by building a platform of trust.
Trust compels people to try you out.
In the business world, it’s about creating a “set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decisions to choose one product or service over another.” (Seth Godin)
Gaining an audience is not about making a church attractive but being real. It’s about presenting yourselves – stains and all – as real people who are daily trusting and immersing themselves on the message of the cross.
People today are willing to invest themselves in people, not ideas.
We gain an audience by welcoming and accepting broken people.
Churches tend to communicate something they are not. They use stock photos of beautiful people who look put together. Christian catchphrases that are meaningful for seasoned believers can come across as “churchy” to the unchurched. People are not looking for phoniness whether its unintentional or not.
A welcoming church takes on the attitude of “being all things to all people so that by all possible means they might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:22) This means preparing to welcome and accept people who are not like themselves.
Broken people are desperately seeking for a place to belong. Many are biblically illiterate. It’s not that they are rejecting the Truth, it’s that they have never heard it clearly communicated before. They don’t know that they don’t know. And many times, people are not willing to admit that they don’t know until life throws them a curveball. Broken and shattered, they desperately are looking for answers that the world is not providing.
Those are the people who are walking through church doors on a Sunday morning.
If Christians think its scary going canvassing, it is even more scary for an unchurched person to come to church on a Sunday morning when they don’t know anybody. They are making a huge personal investment. They are taking an enormous risk. They are giving your church a “free 30-day trial” to test your product and service. They are savvy shoppers who typically look for any excuse to lose their trust.
We gain an audience by being welcoming and transparent. We keep an audience by telling our story.
Life-long Christians baptized as infants have wonderful stories to tell.
The greatest stories are not necessarily how an unbeliever receives faith, but how a seasoned believer remains in the faith.
People watch and observe. They are willing to hear how you weather the storms of life, keep temptations at bay, and exhibit peace, hope, and love when the world seems dark.
Despite what believers perceive on the outside, people are willing to hear reasons for the hope that believers have in Christ.
Rooted in Christ, our stories center on Christ and trusting his promises. Believers don’t have to paint a rosy picture of themselves to make Christ attractive, nor present ourselves as wise and eloquent, but point to the source of our Trust lest we rob the message of its power.
Businesses grow by word-of-mouth. Churches gain an audience by developing a powerful Word-of-mouth network. Reputations are built and stories are told. And people remember stories and faces far more than they remember facts.
Personal evangelism is a crazy idea.
Jesus told the disciples “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” This charge is given to all who believe in him and reiterated in the Great Commission. To be fishers of men means you don’t wait for people to jump into your boat, but you go out into the dark, murky water of sin and put nets into the water.
Word and sacrament gospel ministries that are overflowing with grace and peace can’t help but take Christ at his Word. With pure thankfulness for what Christ has done, we prayerfully consider crazy ideas.
Go into the world and make disciples of all nations seems like a wild notion.
Yet, believers do so, not because they think it will work or not…
“But because you say so…”
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