Do We Focus On McMurray Mike?

Posted · 6 Comments

Yeah I know, you hardly ever hear of WillowCreek or other churches using the old “unchurched Harry” target when talking about their approach to ministry. That belongs to what some believe are the bygone days of “attractional churches,” based on crass marketing. I understand the concern, but it strikes me as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Black and white polarization has never served us well, and maybe it’s just that I’ve always been a bit intrigued by what’s called the genius of the “both/and.”

I can’t imagine that not thinking about whom you are attempting to reach and abandoning any concept of “attractional,” will serve us well in the future. I get that “missional-incarnational” churches have become the current church rage and I think that’s great. But in my mind, borrowing a bit of vocabulary from Dave Ferguson of Community Christian Church, the church simply ought to be extraordinarily attractive because of how it goes into the world to serve the world and love the world back to God.

But you have to exegete the world you are going into and figure out how to best love and serve that world. You have to realize that with limited resources, you may need to focus your resources on a “target” that will give you the greatest kingdom impact.

My theory is that targeting if done right, broadens your reach rather than narrows your reach. There are targets or more appropriately put, people groups, in every community, that when you connect well there, they tend to serve as bridges to others. This is not to suggest that specialized ministry to other specific people groups is not required, just that you need to start somewhere!

At the start of my ministry tenure in Fort McMurray, I’ve begun to wrestle with the question of how to use the limited resources of a smaller to medium sized church to maximize our kingdom impact in the city. Even before I arrived, church leadership has been wrestling with a guy they call “McMurray Mike.”  In other words, as we seek to incarnate the love of Jesus in our city, where do we begin and what can we do that would maximize our impact?

Current missional literature would suggest that you just take who you have and focus on ministry to the poor and the marginalized. Fair enough. It’s clearly a biblical mandate. But perhaps that’s too simplistic an approach. Perhaps another focus might allow for greater impact on the poor and the marginalized. It seems to me that Jesus didn’t just prioritize the down and outters, he also cared for the up and outters, like the affluent tax collectors of his day.

The question is, if we “target” a type of person in our city, are we able by doing that, to strengthen our ministry so that we can reach the diversity of who is in our city, and not simply our narrow target? Can we create a bit of both/and even as we attempt to reach “McMurray Mike” whoever he might be?

And talking about McMurray Mike, recently the Washington Post produced a video clip on Fort McMurray because of the worldwide Keystone pipeline debate. The clip perhaps exaggerates stereotypes of our city, but the stereotypes are rooted in a few sometimes-uncomfortable realities. And a good “target,” is usually a stereotype as well that’s sometimes a bit exaggerated to make its point.

Take a look at the Washington Post video clip, and join with me in thinking through whether we see McMurray Mike here. The clip has four characters: Armand Morin and his girlfriend Jessica Albert, Gary Sidhu, and David Ashley. If we were to focus our efforts a bit more intentionally on one of the four, who would it be and why?

You may not agree with me, but I suspect if we can love and serve Armand and lead him into a life giving relationships with Jesus, the things that we would be doing to effectively reach Armand, while not identical to what would be most effective in reaching the other three, would go a long way to building a bridge to the other three. There’s just no denying that a huge percentage of Fort McMurray are guys like Armand who are looking for the “good life,” they believe Fort McMurray can give them, while the life they truly desire is ultimately waiting for them in Christ. Lovingly reach Armand and Jessica will likely come along. Reach Armand and while Gary lives in a bit of a harsher world, we’d still be well on our way to connecting with him. Reach Armand, and the distance to David is not that far. Reach Armand and we strengthen the local church so that it is better able to not only reach up and outters, but down and outters as well.  Armand matters to God, but so does Jessica, Gary and David and the many other “people groups” in Fort McMurray or any city.

So what do you think?  Can we do both/and, and target Armand, while being inclusive of Jessica, Gary and David and others? And what would it look like to truly incarnate the love of Christ and serve Armand in a way that connects well with him, without excluding anyone else?  I welcome your feedback.

6 Responses to "Do We Focus On McMurray Mike?"
  1. Hi Doug. Great post. I do agree with you that Armand is probably the best person to target. There are my reasons why this is. If I can speak politically/christinically incorrect for a moment, my experience is that the best way to do this is to construct and gear the church service to have a masculine feel and to target the men. What I mean is that- historically the most difficult people to get into Church are men. Most Churches are populated with women and they have husbands who have no interest in coming because they perceive the Church to be too feminine, with the praxis and liturgy having a feminine feel and feminine language. Even much of our worship can be quasi-“Jesus is my boyfriend” with shallow lyrics and this turns men off and makes them really uncomfortable. [example, “Jesus I want to love you, and adore you, whisper to my heart, you’re so beautiful to me” ] On the flip side, I think a Church like Mar Driscolls goes much too far in trying to right that, where they present a picture of Jesus and Christian faith that is hyper masculine, stereotypically so, and makes Jesus and the Gospel inaccessible to many people.

    But if you can subtlety gear your message and liturgy and focus on the men, and can bring them in and help be a means whereby Christ gives them faith and salvation, then historically and statistically the rest of the family- the wives and kids are much more likely to follow/. Let’s face it, Men between the ages of 18-35 are a highly coveted demographic in any Church. How specifically do we attract men, what what does it look like to pursue them without alienating other? I have some ideas which don’t involve any stereotypes of what “real men want” [think, drink beer, shoot deer, watch UFC, etc] , but I’ve save those as the conversation progresses.

    But to summarize- I think the body of Christ is strengthened when it can be attractional and intentional to that core group of people, the Mcmurray Mike. This is your best hope for impacting the community and of growing the Church and stabilizing the familial unit. More importantly, they have a unique ability to in turn preach the gospel and reach other people in their demographic.

  2. Note, the aforementioned post was written by me. I forgot to sign out of my business account. Sorry!

  3. paperthinhymn says:

    Hi Doug. Great post. I do agree with you that Armand is probably the best person to target. There are my reasons why this is. If I can speak politically/christinically incorrect for a moment, my experience is that the best way to do this is to construct and gear the church service to have a masculine feel and to target the men. What I mean is that- historically the most difficult people to get into Church are men. Most Churches are populated with women and they have husbands who have no interest in coming because they perceive the Church to be too feminine, with the praxis and liturgy having a feminine feel and feminine language. Even much of our worship can be quasi-“Jesus is my boyfriend” with shallow lyrics and this turns men off and makes them really uncomfortable. [example, “Jesus I want to love you, and adore you, whisper to my heart, you’re so beautiful to me” ] On the flip side, I think a Church like Mar Driscolls goes much too far in trying to right that, where they present a picture of Jesus and Christian faith that is hyper masculine, stereotypically so, and makes Jesus and the Gospel inaccessible to many people.

    But if you can subtlety gear your message and liturgy and focus on the men, and can bring them in and help be a means whereby Christ gives them faith and salvation, then historically and statistically the rest of the family- the wives and kids are much more likely to follow/. Let’s face it, Men between the ages of 18-35 are a highly coveted demographic in any Church. How specifically do we attract men, what what does it look like to pursue them without alienating other? I have some ideas which don’t involve any stereotypes of what “real men want” [think, drink beer, shoot deer, watch UFC, etc] , but I’ve save those as the conversation progresses.

    But to summarize- I think the body of Christ is strengthened when it can be attractional and intentional to that core group of people, the Mcmurray Mike. This is your best hope for impacting the community and of growing the Church and stabilizing the familial unit. More importantly, they have a unique ability to in turn preach the gospel and reach other people in their demographic.

  4. Mrs.Duff says:

    Armand is young, has a girlfriend, looking to start a family – sounds like most of the population in Ft.Mac/in our church. He would be a great person to reach out to for sure.
    And I completely agree with the comment above – we must target the men!!
    “If the father is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 93% probability that everyone in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian in a household, there is a 17% probability that everyone in the household will follow.” Check out the importance of fathers study – http://www.laughyourway.com/blog/the-importance-of-fathers/
    If you look at the Muslim faith, it attracts many men, and it is strict in it’s rules, where as in Christianity we tend to not want to hurt feelings. If we want to attract men we need to be challenging the men and calling them to a higher standard! Target the men, and the family will follow!
    An interesting video you may like – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8FL-rcFwbk

  5. Penny says:

    When polling the men in my life what would attract them to church (or any place for that matter) the results were 1. Hot girls 2.sports on a big screen 3.music that rocks 4.hard hitting sermons that aren’t weepy. There were some comments about beer and stripper poles, but I for one think that’s going just a little to far 😉

  6. Heather says:

    I’d love to hear more Doug about what defines what you call the “greatest kingdom impact.” If that is the goal – what does that look like? What scriptures define that for you? What are the measurements you use? What does it mean to be successful at that?

    I think you are right on with your quote from Dave Ferguson – the church ought to be attractive, and our attraction is based on us loving the world. I wasn’t sure if the last part of the quote meant that God is separate from the world and we are the bridge back to Him? I think God is already active in loving Fort McMurray and we get to participate in what God is up to in drawing people to Him – along the way learning to offer and receive genuine love.

    I also agree that the particular leads to the many. I can’t love “all children”, but through loving the 2 particular ones in my home, I can begin to see ways to love and serve other children their age, and in turn their parents, teachers, grocery store clerks, government leaders, etc. etc., the ripples in the pond just continue to broaden. I can see how the “scandal of the particular” in our Christian faith may be applied in this case of loving Fort McMurray through “McMurray Mike” as an entry point.

    I follow the reasoning that Jesus cares deeply for “up and outters” as well as “down and outters.” I think the temptation as a church is to continue the fallacy of the first century and believe those with money must be closer to God – they must have most of life figured out – they can’t be too far from God. So as a congregation, we have to be able to name the ways we “up and outters” needed/need salvation. We have to keep telling our stories of how affluence did/does not save us.

    I’ll admit some initial discomfort with the term “target” and wonder how much a visitor would feel like a deer in the crosshairs walking into this conversation on a Sunday morning. Or maybe I’m more worried it wouldn’t be uncomfortable – that it would feel like a very familiar consumer approach and the visitor or the congregation would focus on questions like “what will make McMurray Mike comfortable?”

    We can’t offer McMurray Mike “lifestyle + Jesus” Christianity. I remember hearing Brian McLaren call this the “bait and switch” of telling people to just add a little Jesus to how they currently live, and sometime down the road we introduce them to the gospel Jesus who says things like “take up your cross” “lay down your life” “sell all you have” “love your enemies.” What Jesus do we introduce McMurray Mike to? How do we disciple people along their journey – especially as they enter?

    How do we best love McMurray Mike? It seems to me, we’ve got to be a different “product” than he can pick up at Gold’s gym or McSwiggin’s Pub. That there is something distinct about the way we go about life together. Take for example money – in just this short clip, Armand has given us some very strong clues about finances.
    1. He is open about his salary. This is refreshing. I’ve often thought it would be a great experiment for congregational leadership (not just salaried church staff) to simply name to one another their before tax income.
    2. House poor. He names our reality of high housing costs. I can imagine a congregation looking for ways God might alliviate these chains. Mentors to help home buyers find something they will be able to sustain rather than just the figures given by a lending agency. I know we were approved for a mortgage far beyond what we would have been able to sustain. Or maybe it looks like a critical mass of renters ending up in one of the apartment buildings near the church, so that those in the rental market can work together to make a difference in the safety and hospitality of a building. OR a congregation I know in Indianapolis had 10-12 families that bought “handiman specials” in the same neighbourhood and worked together at renovations for each other – then they ended up with the experience to offer that help to neighbours in need.
    3. Getting lost in the “buy more toys”. Affluenza (aquisition and self centered spending) is a powerful and hostile force. But not more powerful than God. So, as a congregation, do we have people who are living and can share their freedom from this dis-ease? Maybe it’s people who moved from the $176,000 job to an $80,000 one because of God’s leading and they demonstrate a contentment, peace and trust and have the practical experience of adjusting their spending. Maybe it’s 3 or 4 families who live close enough to one another to share – trampoline, snow blower, garden, trailer, etc. so that not everybody has to own all the toys – and the ability to share with others. Maybe it is someone who knows how to invest 40% of their income in passionate and engaged mission with the poor. Maybe it’s creating a congregational culture that doesn’t rely on people spending in order to be together or that has a group skilled in debt counselling, or that encourages “marshmallow buddies” to open up their wallets to one another. Maybe we share stories and expertise of those who are successful producers (to inspire us to not always be consumers).

    I can get carried away generating possibilities, but the point being to be open to seeing and following God’s creativity to address any and all enslavement to money. A community with that kind of flavour I think would be a taste of God’s love.

    Sorry my post is longer than the original blog! Thanks for the ongoing conversation!

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