A self-described atheist came to my house as I was downgrading to internet service only from my communications provider and his employer. Before long the conversation turned to God and the church. This man was absolutely resolved in his refusal to go to any church. It didn’t matter to him if it was traditional, contemporary, big, small, creative, online or cutting-edge. He grew up being forced to go to church and he had made up his mind back then, never again.
I pressed him to find the reason for this disdain. Did someone abuse him, or his family? Did he have a womanizing or thieving pastor? All the horror stories I’ve heard over the years flashed through my mind. What could make a person so dead set against setting foot in any church? My imagination went too far as his reason was rather practical.
“Church Costs Too Much!”
He complained that church demanded too much time, exerted too much control and was too high pressure about giving up one’s money, time and the control of one’s life for the church’s benefit.
I could have gotten defensive with him, but he was giving me great insight to the perspective of the unchurched. Here I was permanently downgrading my service from his employer for the same reasons he had determined to permanently detach from the church. It cost too much of his time, money and effort.
Not many churches appear to think in Marketing terms, evident by the fact that so many churches are in decline. Any good Marketing mix however, continually assesses price. If commitment to church costs too much in terms of time, money, control or effort, or if it is perceived to cost too much, the seekers we aim to be so sensitive about just stop seeking, right?
Pastors, church planters and the mission-minded need all remember to control the cost of church attendance and commitment because the unchurched are counting the cost as the latter part of Luke 14 suggests.
While my self-described atheist friend had concluded the cost was too high for him to attend church, the cost was not too high for him to be attentive to God. Soon after our initial meeting, he invited me to his house to lead a series of conversations about God and answer his lingering questions. By the end of the eight weeks, his dining room was full with his family members and friends he invited who had made the same conclusion he had: Church costs too much, but if it didn’t I would sure love to learn about God.
How often do you assess the cost of commitment to your church and how do you manage it?
I walked away from this experience reminded that we, the church, are to be the ones seeking and reaching the lost.