Jim Henderson runs Off The Map, a church growth ministry and the website ChurchRater.com. His group created a stir several years ago when they hired atheist Hemant Mehta (actually bidding for his services in an eBay auction) to visit churches and give observations as an unbeliever. Well, he is at it again with a new book, Jim and
I’m not completely sure that the exercise is completely fair.
What exercises like can this help us see is this-- the things we might think are important to outsiders may not be all that important.
One thing these three have in common is that they are not easily manipulated. It’s fairly easy to sing peppy songs and preach upbeat sermons. But it's hard to be friendly and accepting without really being friendly and accepting. Studies show that most churches that rate themselves as “very friendly” do so because they are very friendly to each other; outsiders often feel that these “friendly” churches aren’t very friendly at all! It is easy to say that we accept and show grace to everyone… while we actually expect them to basically look and act just like us. And it is extremely hard look like you’ve involved in the lifestyle of Jesus without actually living like it. In other words, the kinds of things that may actually attract outsiders are those things that cannot be manipulated or rearranged to make us more attractive to outsiders.
Someone observed that a stagnant church that changes its worship style in an effort to grow will most often end up a stagnant church with better worship. Outward changes to make us more “user-friendly” to those outside are necessary and important; sometimes we have to get ourselves out of the way so others can better see God. But these external changes are helpful only if they reflect changes on the inside, changes that reflect the power and presence of God Himself.