Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin is not a new book but is one I'm just now reading for the first time. Godin is considered a marketing guru and has written several bestselling books. I've heard him on various podcasts and found him interesting, but I've never been a big fan of his writing. I bought this book after reading a recommendation, and I'm glad I did. Last night I read a paragraph that really jumped off the page.
"So great leaders don't try to please everyone. Great leaders don't water down their message in order to make the tribe a bit bigger. Instead, they realize that a motivated, connected tribe in the midst of a movement is far more powerful than a larger group ever could be."
So often smaller churches are told they have to change this thing or that thing in order to appeal to more people. "You'll never reach young people if you keep singing from the hymnal." "If you don't offer this program your church will never attract certain people to your church." "You better not preach on that subject or you'll run people off." And the list of warnings goes on.
One of my favorite passage of Scripture is John 6. Jesus has done many miracles including the feeding of the 5,000. The masses want to be with him, but they also want him to continue to do miraculous things for them. Instead, Jesus begins to teach some hard truths which alienates the vast majority of the people. In verse 66 we read that many of them turned away and walked with Jesus no more.
What did Jesus do? He didn't run after them pleading with them to return. He didn't beg for their forgiveness. He didn't offer to water down his message to make it more acceptable to them. He didn't promise to be more politically correct in the future. No! What he did was turn to the twelve and ask if they also wanted to leave.
Jesus understood that he could not please everyone. He also knew that a small, committed, motivated few could accomplish a lot more than a large group of people who are just hanging around waiting for the next show or the next serving of fish sandwiches.
A consistent theme in books about reaching out to the unchurched is that churches need not, and must not, water down their message or lower their expectations of what it means to be a Christian and a church member if they want to reach today's unchurched population. This is a generation that is hungry for truth and wants to be involved in something that has high expectations of them.
Does this mean that smaller churches should refuse to make changes that are needed? NO! Anything that hinders our mission must be addressed. Any walls we've created that keep people from God must be identified and torn down. We have to find ways to build bridges into the communities we are called to serve.
This does mean that much of what we're doing is OK. We will never be able to appeal to everyone, and that's OK too. We will advance our part of the Kingdom of God by continuing to be the people God has called us to be, and that's all any church is asked to do.