Customers – for church

helpWho do you want to help?

Who you believe Jesus misses the most?

I know, he loves everyone, but who does he like?

If you want to know, ask yourself an easier question: Who do I like?

Guess what. Jesus likes them too.

How do I know?

Because Jesus likes you and he likes me. So of course he likes our friends.

When you consider your church’s customers you have to focus on two things:

  • Who do I know (and like)?
  • Who’s local?

Liking matters. Don’t discount it. Humans have been doing business with family for thousands of years. Why? Because in low-trust environments, blood is way thicker than water.

If I can see you, or sit at a table with you, there’s a much greater chance I’ll trust you. If we’re Twitter friends, I’ll find you entertaining, but trust is still a long way away.

Facetime is primetime.  facetimeWe trust people we can see. So flip it around. If you want to know who your customers are, think about who you’re seeing – today, or this week.

These are your potential customers. These are the people who can tell you their story – and listen to yours. If you don’t know them, they can’t know you. Facetime is primetime.

This primetime is also local. If you drive the same streets, get coffee at the same haunts, get groceries at the same market, that’s common ground. Common ground is the only currency when it comes to deep, spiritual work.


Because we have to know each other’s names. The rules change when we learn each others names – and we need the rules to change. We have to trust each other. No trust = no chance.

To see this think about 2 circles: your church and your community.

2 Circles

Notice two things. Every church sits inside a bigger community and the community is always bigger than the church.

Let’s redraw that picture though – it’s not quite right.

gray area




This shaded area is crucial. It’s your space. Sure, you spend time in and with a church, but that’s not the extent of your community. We go to soccer games with community (non-church) people. We watch the Seahawks with all kinds of people. Why?

Because we like them & they like us.

This shaded circle is the like-circle (yours & your church’s) potential customers.

If we really want to understand this shaded circle we have to shift from bounded-set to centered-set. Imagine two churches: A & B.

Church A looks like this:Bounded Set

It has a very distinct boundary between itself and the community. Sure you can come in from the community – if you agree to the rules, the dress-code and the statement of faith. (Lie detector tests may be administered without prior notice. Sort of kidding.)

Church A has a hard boundary. Like a surgeon protecting her sterile field, Church A is vigilant for germs.

Church B looks like this:open boundary

There’s a boundary between Church B and the community but it’s permeable. Church B is also trying to move (individually & corporately) toward the center inside the circle (let’s call that the Jesus dot.)

Church A is a bounded-set church. You’re either in or out. Church A is binary. Church B is a center-set church. There’s no clear in or out. We’re just all trying to get ever closer to the Jesus dot.

Remember that like-circle? That’s where we get to go seriously center-set.

By prayer, solitude and reflection, we’ll find out who Jesus is missing the most – who he really likes.

To understand the like-circle, we have to go ancient – all the way back to the 14th century. A 14th century monk once said, “Pray until you have to do, or do until you have to pray.”

Putting his words into practice we get this:

pray doWe can start at either end. If you know what to do or who to do it with, then start doing. Keep doing until you have to pray.

If we don’t know what to do, that’s fine. Pray. Pray for who in that like-circle Jesus misses the most. The Spirit is quite good at telling us “who”.

If you have a who, great. What about what to do? Pray about that too.

The most powerful thing you can do – at that point – is to pray behind their backs. Go ahead. It’s America. Don’t tell them, that’ll wreck it. Just pray – for them.

Eventually – you’ll get an idea. Something you can do with or for them. It’ll feel like you thought of it yourself. That’s OK. Blame God if you want. Don’t do it yet. Keep praying.

Eventually you have to do it. You just will. Now you’re on the doing side. Keep doing it until you have to pray.

Our customer problem in the church has nothing to do with marketing, digital presence or biblical thinking. The problem is us – and our lack of imagination.

When it comes to imagination, we’re impoverished. We literally can’t think of the people (names and faces) that Jesus misses the most. The good news is we don’t have to think of them ourselves.

It’s only on us to ask. The technical word for this is prayer.

Jesus said the fields were white with harvest. Clearly he was seeing something the disciples weren’t.

Here’s the really good news – Jesus isn’t selfish. He wants us to see with (his and his Dad’s) eyes. He wants us to share his vision – so it’s ours and his.

But – we have to ask. “If anyone will open the door, I will come in and dine with him.” He’ll share. Facetime is primetime.

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