As I’m listening to the Coupe Du Monde Station (XM 148) on the way home, there is an interruption for the Small Business Report with Dave Such-and-Such. Mr. Such-and-Such gives out a few pointers and then says "Remember, fill your store with what customers are buying, not what you’re selling." Dave was making the point that a person’s inventory should reflect what customers want to buy, not what a business wants to sell.
As a minister, some red-flags went up in my head. I thought about that statement as it relates to the church, and I was thinking "No sir, I don’t care what customers are buying, I have what they need." God’s truth should be what be present everyone, no matter what they "want," right? I mean, could you imagine if a church just bent towards the will of every attender? It would be chaos, right?
I drove home smugly thinking I had the best blog post of the day (behind Mark Driscoll) and then it hits me: I’ve got it all wrong. The moment that I start giving a church what I want and not what they are asking for, I am going to be in trouble. For instance, suppose that I love soccer. Suppose that it is my favorite sport, but I keep it buried deep deep down for fear of ridicule. I have this radical idea one day that what our student ministry needs is a soccer ministry. We need to theme our building with the flags of the world and every time someone joins the church, we all yell "GOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL!" I’ll stop using my hands when I teach, and turn the pages of my notes with my feet. Instead of being called Chris or Stapper, people will call me "Cristobalito" and I’ll bleach my hair blonde with brown polka-dots. I do all of this because I think that soccer will inspire people to learn more about Christ.
I’m guessing that would go over like a lead balloon, at least here in Athens. If I were in Sao Paolo or Barcelona, it would be stellar. But the students of Athens want soccer like they want Ivy League Prep or Homeless Man Chic. And that’s a small example. What about a real issue: What if I really think worship happens best with newer music, but the church overwhelmingly agrees that hymns are where it’s at. Should I give them what I want, or what they are asking for?
I would say there are some non-negotiables that always need to be stocked in a church’s cupboard. We always need to preach the love and grace of God, the fact that salvation is found only in Christ, and that we will never be fulfilled until we put others before ourself. But beware of things that are outside of the realm of non-negotiable. Just because I am a minister does not mean I don’t need to know my audience. I would say that being a minister charges me with knowing a context better than anyone else.