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No, I’m not suggesting that the church begin selling computers and mobile devices or relocate to malls (although the latter isn’t necessarily a bad idea). What I AM suggesting is:

– The church should be packed with people because it offers what they want. I went to the Apple store yesterday to have my son’s iPod repaired and there were people in every square foot of the store. It was so crowded, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get in. The church, on the other hand, has seen a steady decline in numbers. Is it because the church no longer offers what the people want? Yes, in my opinion. We still have what the people NEED, but we offer it in a package that fewer and fewer want.

– The church should be successful because of the great advertising done on its behalf. Apple does ads with promotions like, “This changes everything.” Churches advertise with slogans like “Turn to Jesus today.” Imagine if the iPhone’s slogan was simply, “Buy an iPhone.” A good case can be made for the church being unable to afford media advertising, but no such argument can be made for the more powerful word-of-mouth advertising. Too often, Christians give the unappealing prompt to unchurched friends, “You should come to my church.” Our churches could be full if our members were sharing, “Jesus changes everything” and then proceeded to explain how.

– The church should be user-friendly. I was so intimidated by the crowd at the store that I would have made a quick exit, had I not quickly been greeted by someone asking to help. Church greeters typically say hello. If they recognize someone as a visitor, more direction might be given. But what if everyone were greeted with, “How may I help you this morning?” My name was noted and an appointment made for me. In that throng of people, I was recognized as an important person. In our larger churches, how often have people entered as a visitor and left feeling more alone than when they arrived? Or how often has a church member left disappointed that no one asked how they were doing? I was told exactly where to go for my appointment so I didn’t feel foolish. Many church visitors aren’t offered the same clear direction.

– The church should offer grace in response to clear teaching about sin. I wasn’t kept waiting for my appointment and I explained my problem. The young man explained that my son had damaged his iPod by shoving the charger in the wrong way. He then explained my options–both of which were costly. I took the least expensive option of replacing our current iPod. When the man returned, he had the new iPod but said he wouldn’t be charging me. I was incredulous. “Why?” He said that even though damage wasn’t covered under warranty, they just wanted to replace it free of charge. Unfortunately, the church today is less willing to say that we are responsible for damaging our lives by refusing to discuss sin. Even if the church offers people the Gospel (a free replacement life in Christ), the value of the gift is greatly diminished without an acknowledgement of our responsibility.

I left the Apple store feeling blessed and wanting to tell everyone the good news I heard there. We don’t have to hire Steve Jobs to pastor our churches to have the same result. We can ask the Holy Spirit to breathe new life into the church and to let it begin with ‘me.’

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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