James Emery White is Senior Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte (and one of our featured speakers at May’s National Conference on Preaching). In his Church and Culture blog, he recently wondered, “whether we are increasingly succumbing to the idea that we have to use sensationalism to penetrate a post-Christian culture and draw crowds; the shock series title, the car giveaway, the celebrity interview. Is it media attention we’re ultimately after? Is that what grows a church? No.
“Case in point: Meck has received quite a bit of ‘attention’ over the years. We’ve been on the front page of our local newspaper (which has more than 1,000,000 subscribers/viewers) on multiple occasions; all positive stories related to our growth or innovation. We’ve been featured in national news stories, from USA Today to CBS News. We’ve been cited in books and magazines. We’ve even had our fair share of flirting with ‘sensationalism,’ whether intended or not, with local media jumping on our ‘Porn Sunday’ held with the xxxChurch ministry, holding Easter services at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and more.
“Result? No major spikes in attendance following any of it.
“Attention? Most definitely. But no appreciable increase in attraction.
“Traction is gaining ground in your community. It is taking over subdivisions and neighborhoods. It is winning family after family. It is when I go to a coffee shop and begin bantering with the barista, find an opening to invite her to attend, and she tells me that I’m the third person that day who’s invited her to Meck. It is a reputation among the unchurched that you are generous, good, growing and alive.
“So if not from attention, where does such traction come from? From raging fans. Our reputation and growth has come almost entirely through word of mouth. Not the kind started with a billboard or mailing, but the kind generated by people’s experience.
“This penetrates the culture like nothing else. Based on our exit interviews, taken at every membership class for years, we currently experience more than 70 percent of our total growth from those who were previously unchurched. Of those, the vast, vast majority came because they were invited by one of those raging fans.
“Simply put, it’s all about being talked about like gossip over the backyard fence, which doesn’t come from spectacle.
“It comes from those who believe you are spectacular.” (Click here to read the full article.)
(Click here to read a front-page article from Sunday’s Charlotte Observer on multi-site churches in which Meck is again featured.)