Why Event Driven Churches are not Effective Disciple Making Movements
First off, most event driven churches do not realize they are event driven, and those that do, either refuse to admit it or make up excuses as to why it must continue.
All of my ministry experience has revolved around planning an event, getting people to attend it, and then teaching them the planned lesson. Sometimes personal ministry took place. Sometimes. “Attend this activity, come to that meeting.” I can remember days early on while serving as a youth pastor where I was required to plan a certain amount of activities so that it appeared I was an aggressive and determined youth pastor. Success was determined by business and numerical attendance, salvations and baptisms recorded on paper. I was successful. Events/Activities typically only work well (to their end/purpose) when an established crowd of people exist. Much different in church planting. We were always busy and the ministry I served grew significantly in numbers. In fact every event driven ministry I have served since then has effectively grown numerically. Several good things happened. People built relationships, loved attending, fun was had, the bible was taught, and much much more! 😉 But one thing was missing…I couldn’t put my finger on it, and honestly I had spent so long justifying that kind of ministry in my mind and I continually rationalized because of the “success” I was having.
I loved getting pats on the back and having a big crowd show up to hear me speak. Truthfully though, pretty much any competent person who is motivated and diligent can get a crowd to show up. Give him a budget and a few helpers and he can get an even bigger crowd. And yes the Sunday morning gathering/large Wednesday gathering fits within the category of an event or an activity. A good speaker, cool band, and good size budget equals large crowd. Every time. And many, likely most churches, are built on this Sunday gathering. Without this event the majority if not all of their ministries would fizzle out quickly. Where would they take the offering? How would they teach the bible? How do people get saved without this alter call? How would we effectively disciple people without Sunday school classes? God forbid we have a church that doesn’t have a concert each week! How can we grow spiritually without the band? But still with all of this at my finger tips one thing was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. All I could think about each day was the massive amount of super large wealthy churches in the Bible Belt and yet things were still utterly broken in society. Most churches were content with their sunday gatherings and an occasional service project to check the “feel good, I served a poor person” off their list. We’ll gladly participate in “Operation Christmas Child”, but no chance will we get to know the shoeless hungry kid in the apartment complex down the road. That’s too messy and requires way too much work, right? And yet it was endless insanity of doing the same thing over and over again yet getting the same results. Lot’s of people but no power from God. No miraculous transformation, or society penetration.
Honestly no one on a grand scale would have cared if we were gone tomorrow. It was more of transfer growth, christian collecting, and feel good activity. But no real penetration into society, no real transformation. Collecting but no sending. Why do some churches plant hundreds of churches and others plant none? Or one, or a couple. Collecting but no sending. In scripture I feel like there was more reproducing and sending going on then collecting and gathering. Maybe I have a week hermeneutic but I could not reconcile modern church with what I was seeing in scripture. It felt more like I was helping institutions drive their programs instead of submitting to the power of God to fuel His movement. It felt like we had man centered agendas instead of God’s agenda. Who are we to think our programs, and events, and activities and gatherings are what works? Since when did God need us to manipulate His results? I read an article by Tony Morgan where he lists six reasons people do event driven ministry. I thought it was good so Im borrowing it from him to list in this blog post:
1.) Churches do events because churches have always done events. It doesn’t matter if the event actually helps people or not, we do the event because we’re suppose to do the event.
2.) We do events because they are easy to measure. If more people show up, we assume the event was successful and helpful. How many large Christian events cause little to no real change or transformation?
3.) We do events because we’re lazy. Its a lot easier to just throw events on the calendar than it is to think about how we might effectively help people take their next steps…especially if that involves engaging people in relationships…The following is my own commentary…”people do not become true disciples at events, they become true disciples in the dirty mix and grind of every day life…marriages are not fixed at events, they are fixed one choice at a time to love your spouse through the hell of life.” Also if one has to justify his position by adding events and activity to the calendar, then there is a toxic relationship between pastor and church.
4.) We do events to justify staff positions. Staff members feel obligated to do events to prove the need for their positions…the following is my own commentary…most churches are over staffed anyway. Staff often does what a lazy pastor does not want to do, or they serve as a added name on the website to pad the church ego.
5.) We do events because we have egos. It feels good to get up in front of a group of people and teach them. We feel fulfilled……….I love preaching to big crowds, not gonna lie…but what I crave more is God fueled power and transformation.
6.) We do events because we’re afraid to say no. Many times we don’t know when to say no because we haven’t established a clear vision and strategy.
**Ive added one of my own...
7.) We do events because it fools people into thinking we have something legitimate going on so they will give their money. If it were me I would more likely invest in a God movement than a monotonous event any day. But who knows? I can expound on number two with this one. People like to give to events because it makes them feel as if they are getting a visible return on their investment. Its harder to give to a movement because movements are often subversive and not easily visible. We live in a consumeristic culture. Unfortunately we cannot change the hearts of men. We can only manipulate them. Only God can change their hearts.
The decision we must make: A creative, exciting, man driven, set of events and activities, and random missions to check off of a “feel right with The Lord” list OR a God fueled disciple making movement emphasizing biblical sending and reproduction.
At the end of the day, I have done the former and have done it well. But to be honest I’d rather have the latter or quit and go get a job that’s less messy, less stressful, and pays more. I would never want to become a man who has to pad his insecure ego by gathering a crowd of people to listen to him at a weekly event. The idea of that fancy’s me not. That’s too much work for not enough result. I’d rather hop on a wave of God-powered movement all day long.