Hey, but what if it works? A commentator, a dear friend i admire deeply, raises an important point. What if a church does add all manner of bells and whistles, and even just one person comes, converts, and eventually grows to be there for all the right reasons? Isn't it worth it? If a method works, shouldn't we use it?
It's true, some people come up for the show, and end up developing enough substantial commitment to stay for the long-haul. And if it's as simple as that, then maybe we should do it that way. But i'm really not sure it is as simple as that.
i'm by no means qualified to give the exact numerical value of one conversion. God alone knows that number, and He gives us every impression that it's immeasurably huge. So i'm certainly not about to say, 'Nope, it wasn't worth it.'
But i do want to make three points that serve as indirect responses. Here is the first:
In the first post, i questioned whether the "Build-it-and-they-will-come" approach is a means which really will accomplish our ends (or what should be our ends). But consider a related point, what if those means are harmful to our general goals (even though they accomplish a specific one)? Maybe you've heard the question, "Shall we build Christ's kingdom using the devil's tools?" Now, i'm not saying that all build-it-and-they-will-come approaches are necessarily using the devil's tools. But the point of the question is something like this: Even if you get the good, praiseworthy outcome you want, did you give up something of value just to get it? In other words, what if a church's use of certain methods turned out to be spiritually detrimental to the congregation as a whole in the long run?
Suppose we do get a new visitor who converts. Did we get what we want and something that accomplishes one of our important goals?--yes. But what if the church that person was just added to is now worse off for having employed the methods they did? For instance, does it help us or hurt us to employ methods that cater to materialism and consumerism? Does it help us or hurt us to employ methods that will nurture materialism or consumerism in our own members? Does it help us or hurt us to cater to the idea that church life and worship is about whether or not we or our visitors find it fun or exciting or palatable-to-my-personal-tastes?
Here's a scarier possibility: What if the methods we're using reflect bad values we already have? In other words, is it possible that we want to do things a certain way simply because (maybe without realizing it) we're inculcated with materialism and consumerism? If that's true, then we just allowed ourselves to make decisions based on our un-Christian values, and insomuch as we approve of our new methods and projects, we've reinforced those methods and values.
i know those are sharply-toned questions. But i'm not at all pretending like the answers to those questions should be obvious, nor do i mean to assume that all seeker-sensitive outreach methods are necessarily materialistic. We have to determine whether the methods in question even are catering to or nurturing these negative values (maybe they don't), and then to what degree they cater to or nurture bad values (maybe only a little or maybe only from a certain perspective), and then to what degree they would hurt us even if they do cater to or nurture bad values.
So what i'm saying here is this: even if we get a huge, good payoff at the end (a new convert), that still doesn't necessarily imply that the ends justified the means. We still may very well end up hurting ourselves and even the newly-converted person for having used the methods we did.