I get questions. A lot of questions. Here’s an email I got in response to a post last week about the importance of developing empathy for our customers’ needs.
“Mark, I get what you are talking about in designing systems and processes that work but the language of customer and consumer is problematic. I have been thinking a lot about the paradigm of customer and consumer and wonder if this type of language and thought is causing the problem of lack of discipleship in the church today. Jesus said, “Come and die with me.” Customer and consumer language is all about how God is going to make your life better. The more I wrestle with the issue of the problem of discipleship in the church today the more I think language and paradigm matters. King, kingdom, reign, rule, cross, death seem more appropriate. I know your passion is to make disciples and I know you are not specifically addressing discipleship with the metaphor of customer and consumer.
First of all…let me acknowledge that this was a really a comment, not a question. But it was just too packed with an important idea to pass up! And I knew you’d really need to think through this with me.
Second, if you didn’t read the post that elicited this response, you might want to stop and read 4 Steps to Extending Your Reach into the Crowd and Community before you continue.
Finally, here’s my response. I think of our need to develop empathy for those in the crowd and community in the sense that they’re not ready to hear the same message that those in the congregation, committed and core are. See also, Concentric Circles and Clue #2 When Designing Your Small Group System (I believe this post ought to be required reading for everyone working on a church staff).
If you think about this in terms of the Engel Scale, you can see right away that the message of come and die would either fall on deaf ears or be stiff-armed right away. Can you see that? And really, as I’ve pointed out a number of times, Jesus’ message was not “come and die” to his first followers. It was “come and see.” See also, Recruiting Like Jesus, Moving from “Come and See” to “Come and Die” and 5 Honest Thoughts about Small Group Ministry.
The real question might be, “How can we help people continue to take next steps in the direction of Christ-centeredness? (to use the language of Willow’s Reveal study). And isn’t the answer obviously, that we need to customize our approach to fit the customer? Isn’t the answer really, that we need to provide customized next steps for everyone and first steps for their friends? See also, *And Some People Will Still Leave and Ten Ideas that Have Shaped My Philosophy of Ministry.
What do you think? Have a question? Want to argue? You can click here to jump into the conversation.