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.