While we knock on Saddleback for creating a gated church community…many of our churches are gated communities in practice if not in name. We often want only particular types of people to come. That’s a basic human tendency and is shared by every church, not just Saddleback.
But it’s worse than that. Even if we say we are open to many, our models of evangelism betray that we only want to focus on particular groups.
This gated church community snafu is an unintentional outcome of the intentional evangelism model of Saddleback Church.
- It is well known that Saddleback bases their outreach on “Saddleback Sam” who is a caricature of the type of mid 30s angsty males who are under-served by the church.
- By focusing their evangelism on these men, then they will bring their entire families with them.
It works. It is effective. And niche congregations are growing like wildfire. But it can lead to blind spots that causes entire churches to cease valuing the Church universal like in this instance.
Evangelism today is showing/telling the Good News in a world more and more characterized by niche churches that serve minimal slices of society.
- Churches like Saddleback and other Wal-Mart Churches grow at least partially because niche marketing and fellowship are effective, the message can be relevant because it is speaking to a monoculture [the Echo Chamber].
- But what we end up with is dozens of monocultures who cease to interact and fracture society even more so that entire sections of society slip through the cracks.
What does the Good News look like to a fragmented world? And can it really be the Good News of reconciliation and leaving the 99 to find the 1 that Christ calls us to be? We may set up damn effective ministries and programs that grow and bring more souls to Christ for those 99…but where’s the 1 that Christ calls us to serve?
A troubling thought for Holy Monday. Thoughts?
[Lead Image by Cody Jensen]