Guns, beer and Jesus
I was reading not too long ago about Baptist churches in Kentucky that were raffling off guns as part of a strategy to bring more people into the church. Apparently in heavily pro-gun rights Kentucky they felt that this was a good outreach to unsaved neighbors.
Not long after that I saw that several other churches were using yet another strategy to appeal to the community around them – beer. Some of these churches have gone a little further, moving the church services to the local bar. I guess this allows people to toss down a few beers while listening to the message.
This strategy reveals that a considerable segment of the church has grown more relaxed about alcohol over the past few decades. I sometimes wonder what old Rev. Partrick, the elderly minister that often thundered about the evils of drink from the pulpit of the church my parents dragged me to as a kid, would be thinking were he still with us.
Actually, though I have neither in my house, I don’t suppose I have any inherent problems with either guns or beer; if that is your thing and you are responsible so be it. However these stories are examples of what is called “affinity evangelism.” In short this is a strategy to reach people outside the church by expressing interest in the things they are interested in. Our Baptist friends in Kentucky are so happy with this idea that they have an affinity evangelism website to train you in how to do it. Who knows? Maybe they will marry the outreaches via guns and beer into a single strategy, although nothing good coming out of gun-toting drunks in church comes to my mind .
There is also an affinity evangelism blog at another site and lots of youtube sites for this as well. This whole concept is not exactly new. Churches have been doing this for decades, albeit with tamer affinities. We’ve done outreaches to mothers of young children, seniors, and teens etc. for years. It is just that of late the methods have gotten bolder and the methodologies more “intentional”, the latter being a buzzword for doing something for the specific purpose of introducing Jesus.
I’ve been wondering what I think of all this. By “this” I don’t mean any one plan or target but the whole deal. There is surely a spectrum of target people ranging from the sweet and easy (little children) through the probably good (neighborhood outreaches for example) all the way to a little startling like the guns and beer folks. I’ve come up with a three-point checklist I think makes sense to me.
- Do I actually like and enjoy participating in the things the folks being courted do? In other words, is the affinity real? If you are reaching bikers for example, you better be a biker and share their enthusiasm in a genuine way that is clearly evident.
- Second, does that affinity make my interest in, and love for, those who share it people that I genuinely care about? Will that love and care go on, even if they don’t want to share my love for Jesus?
- Is this personal? Is it something I want to do and will do, even if my church or others I am with don’t go along? Believe me; people can spot an organized strategy a mile away. Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes to be a “target” of evangelism.
Frankly, the only thing that bother me are words like “strategy,” “target” and “methodology” that crop up in discussions like this. Jesus went to the cross not because I was his target but because I was his beloved.