What’s Your Strategy?

by | Feb 28, 2024 | Church Health, Outreach and Evangelism | 1 comment

We—the followers of Jesus—live in an interesting neighborhood: The World. 

My friend Tom Thatcher (co-founder of The Elemental Group) texted me this picture recently in Cincinnati and said: “Positively, the target audience and value proposition are stated in exceptionally clear terms.


There are three basic kinds of approaches the Church can take toward the world. I can guarantee that most leaders of churches have approached the world—the culture—in one of three ways.


First, we can Abdicate. 


That means we simply run away from the world and any responsibility in it. These are churches that see the culture as evil and therefore to be avoided at all cost. After all, didn’t Jesus say in Revelation to “come out from among them”? Doesn’t Paul the apostle say to not mix light with darkness?


I love when Paul writes with a sense of humor. He writes to a church in Corinth that has all sorts of problems. He says:

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.  1 CORINTHIANS 5:9–10 NLT


The Church has often been good at avoiding the culture…sometimes because of fear. But Jesus already told us he was sending us into the world as sheep among wolves.


Another approach is to Dominate. 


That means we overpower the culture. This often has political power overtones. We need to get our man or woman in…then we can take back this culture. We need to control the airways, the commerce, the government, the schools, the whatever.


Please don’t misunderstand: Christians need to be involved in all of life in every sector. But if we think the way the Church will win is by getting the most votes, forcing the world to look like us, to be domineering and overpowering, I think we’re missing the Jesus-picture…the One who said take the last seat, walk the second mile, who came to serve, not to be served.


The problem with an Us-and-Them approach is it immediately sets us up as the Good Guys and the world as the Bad Guys and we become confrontational in nature rather than reconciling…and we lose spiritual credibility and any moral authority. Power is dangerous and intoxicating; we have to be very careful how we think about it.


A third approach is to Incarnate. 


That’s what Jesus did: He became one of us that he might save all of us. He was accused of being an overeater and an alcoholic…of running around with the wrong crowd…of being a friend of sinners. Admit it: He was amazing. He was in the world but not of the world. He was a missionary to our world.


Being missional means that the Church doesn’t run from the culture…it embraces it. It lives with the tension of being culturally relevant and counter-culture. In other words, there is some philosophical conflict…it’s not just black-and-white in terms of ministry approach. It assumes people have a huge need for Jesus’ love and touch, based on what it sees in the people around it: poverty-stricken in spirit, broken, captive to an unseen enemy, blind, and oppressed. An incarnational church assumes that it was sent—and that people are in huge need of the Holy Spirit. It seems it has a number one priority:

“Go out into the streets and the lanes and make the people come in, so that my house may be full.”  LUKE 14:23 ISV


Which of the three approaches has your church taken?

And if it needs to reset, do you have a plan on how to do that?



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