by Charles LaFond
Have you ever been to a movie because a close friend spoke to you about it and said that the movie was a wonderful experience? Have you perhaps traveled to a location for vacation based solely on a referral from a friend or loved one? Have you been to a restaurant or made a meal because a friend said how wonderful the food was? We all do this.
In fact, this process is an ancient form of human survival. We humans have developed over the past 200,000 years to sit around a fire in a circle – our backs to the dark forest (with no small amount of hungry eyes looking at us from out there) surrounded by faithful dogs, and telling each other what we experienced in the daylight. We tell each other what is dangerous (lions, tigers, snakes) and we tell each other what foods are good and which are poisonous based on our experience.
“Don’t eat the plant with shiny, reddish leaves with three points “ “Do eat the yellowish fruit with the spikey green pointy leaves – the one that looks a bit like a pine cone.” “Don’t drink from the pool of water south of the cow field. But the water in the river to the west of the red rocks is wonderful water.”
We tell each other our stories of successes and failures out in the wilds of real life. And biology has developed humans such that we get a chemical reward squirted into our bloodstream when we hear a story from another human being from beginning to end. The chemical is the same one squirted into a mother when she gives birth – a connecting chemical. We humans are rewarded for connecting with each other through story.
Jesus sets many examples in scripture. Jesus touches. Jesus self-offers. Jesus expresses compassion. Jesus connects and speaks to people one on one. Jesus asks people to “come and see” what he is doing and what the result of his work is manifesting.
Over the next few weeks we will be looking at “raising people.” A healthy church will need to “raise money” each fall so that they have the financial resources to fuel their mission. Similarly, a healthy church will want to “raise people” in the spring so that they have the human resources to fuel their mission.
Just as we choose a movie, a vacation, a restaurant or a book because others spoke to us about the wonderful experience they had in a particular choice, so too people can choose a church because someone they like and respect suggested that they “come and see” their church. The Come and See Program (© 2011 Charles LaFond) is a proven method of church human resource development. It is not a kitschy program with its own clip art. It is basic branding, marketing and communications in a church context. It works. It is measurable. It is human. And it is pledge-based.
Evangelism is not John telling Susan where to get food. Evangelism is John telling Susan where he was just-now-fed.
Stand up in your church on Sunday and invite everyone between 18 and 38 to please stand up. Ask them to remain standing and introduce your congregation to their future. Count the families represented in those standing and ask yourself if you can fund your mission with those pledges in 20 years. If not, consider the reality that our churches are aging… fast. And consider going back to Jesus’ method of evangelism. “Hello, may I invite you to come and see my church? You need not join. Just come and see what gives me joy. We are friends. It would mean a lot to me.”
This is not a new program. This is an ancient and authentic act of friendship and is the only hope for a molting church.