Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

You’re working too hard

Posted on 15 Jan 2014 in Christianity, Church, Ministry | Comments Off on You’re working too hard

Every couple of months, we receive in the mail a flyer for a new, hip, and exciting church that’s meeting at the local movie theatre. It’s always addressed something like,


It then goes on to describe the many reasons why I should go to their church. Three of their claims stick out to me.

  1. It’s in a movie theatre! Isn’t that cool? And I’m not trying to sell you on it, that’s actually what the flyer says. The reason I should go to church is because they meet in a theatre, and who wouldn’t want to do that? This one might actually be worth something if I could get a discount on the $12 small popcorn.
  2. It’s different. Not quite sure how (other than being in a theatre), but they claim it is, and we all know churches never lie or stretch the truth to get new people into their doors.
  3. It’s cool and casual. They have a different vibe at their church. They serve trendy drinks like coffee, which you can’t just find everywhere. In addition to that, you can ‘come as you are’ on a Sunday morning, no need to dress up for them.

    Movie theater

    Movie theater (Photo credit: JanneM)

I hope their church thrives and grows, I really do. I’ve never pictured what I do as a pastor to be in competition with other pastors. My sincere prayer is that their ministry grows and brings people into the Kingdom.

But I also think they’re working too hard and missing the point on several key aspects with their flyer. Here are three, in growing areas of concern for me:

  1. It seems like they have it all figured out. Honestly, the flyer seems a little arrogant. Everything I’ve been missing (and didn’t know I was missing) can be found in the movie theatre church. While it may be unintentional, it sure reads like, “It’s OK to come as you are because we’re going to fix you.” While I agree that the Gospel needs to change people, it is never our job to fix them. Create an invitation to explore, not a flyer to manipulate change.
  2. Their financial investment is greater than their relational investment. I never hear anything else from them other than the flyer every three months. Never a phone call, a different flyer (it’s always the same one), never a visit (after all, they are calling me a friend, why can’t they come visit), and the biggest thing to me, I never see them in my community. Their investment in me as a dollar or member has exceeded their investment in me and my community relationally. I’ll be much more open to their invitation if I sense that they care about me personally and are willing to come work along side the things that I’m passionate or concerned about in my community.
  3. It’s still attractional. There’s no real way around this one. Their model of church is, “You need to come to us so we can give you something we know you need but you don’t.” Like the above point, I’m much more willing to listen if I sense that they care about me and my community, and not just my attendance at a building. The model of church still presumes that others need to go to them to find life. If my salvation really was that important to them, wouldn’t it be worth coming into the community and sharing with me personally? Churches that want to be effective disciple-makers in the future need to enter into neighborhoods (incarnational living) to join God in areas where he is already working (missional living). There is no room to assume that God isn’t working, only that he is and we need to find where.

The future success of the church is going to be built on a different paradigm for entering into relationships with others. Flyers and direct door mailers might have worked in the 1990’s, but today’s hyper sensitive and busy culture doesn’t have time to fit one more thing into their schedule. What they’re looking for isn’t a magic pill or quick fix on a Sunday morning, but the knowledge that someone loves and cares for them just as they are. They are looking for someone to be a real friend, not the means to an end.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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