Affinity Ministry IN the Diverse Church

Everybody targets a group. I think it’s a little misleading to suggest that it’s actually possible to preach and teach the gospel and just expect that a diverse set of people will come and hear. . . . I’m also a little unsure why you would say that targeting a group makes sense overseas, but not in America, as if America is uniform. Do the poor, addicted, orphan and widow or even ethnic minorities just show up because we are in the pulpit teaching and preaching? The call is to “go and make disciples of all nations (ethnos),” not stay in your pulpit and everything will sort itself out.

It is wrong to assume that “preaching the Gospel” = “preaching from a pulpit.” Going is implicit in preaching. Being in the pulpit is one form of preaching. Scripturally, however, preaching is synonymous with evangelism. Evangelism entails going.

It is true, by virtue of our finitude, we will target someone. I cannot preach the Gospel to all people at the same time. I must decide to walk up to one person or a group of people and open the Scriptures with them. I cannot go to another group at the same time I am going to this group. It is impossible.

You might consider that unfair to the person asking the question–as that is not exactly what he meant. Yet, I find that this over-arching truth of finitude helps contour the discussion on target groups. That’s why I mentioned what is obvious, but too often unheeded.

I agree with Tim Keller’s assessment that we are always drawing near to one culture and drawing away from another culture. My critique would rest on whether we should be content with excluding and embracing should determine a philosophy of ministry for an entire church.

Sure. There are people who enjoy jazz music to organ arrangement to acoustic guitar to electonica as their tastes for singing to the Most High. Sure. There are those who like to wear tighter jeans to sporting the sag to pastel chinos. Sure. There are those who prefer Latin to colloquial. Sure. There are those who communicate at a high level and those who like a little earth in their verbiage. Does all this mean that you should have a jazz-only service–or any mix of preferences? Could we not have a ministry under the auspices of a local church targets an affinity group: say, a Goth ministry on Friday nights? Could we not have a hipster Bible study on Monday afternoon? Sure. Under the umbrella of a local church.

How is this different than building a church around a target audience? Worlds. (1) It affirms the distinctions in culture, but does not compromise the multi-cultural dimension of the Babel-redeeming Gospel. (2) The affinity ministries disciple in such a way that diverse expressions of worship and devotion are not merely understood but celebrated. (3) The church gathered on Sunday would have Goths, hipsters, and jazz musicians relishing and enjoying each other’s fellowship around the Table of Fellowship and Reconciliation.

Comments 1

  1. Thank you for clarifying much. May Jesus be lifted up and adored.

    “It is true, by virtue of our finitude, we will target someone.”
    Consciously or not, we are always “targeting.”

    I had a believer tell me, “My father always told me, ‘Never trust anyone who wears a suit.’ While you were speaking I kept telling myself,I know this man, I can trust him to tell me Bible truth.” It never crossed my mind that wearing a suit for the occasion would be an issue to anyone. Haha.

    The real issue is not if the issue exists. It’s if we will listen to God’s direction to our ministry.

    I think a case can be made that those who target consciously can more easily recognize when God’s Spirit draws people from outside their target audience… and they can consciously consider making changes. They can change the cultural trappings. They can widen or rethink who their target is. (Over the last 60 years some city churches changed their church culture; they made a transition to accompany the demographic changes of the churches’ neighborhood. Others moved to the suburbs. Other churches ceased to exist.)

    On the other hand, the church leadership that imagines it isn’t targeting may very well miss out on the changes necessary to make their church more culturally accessible. It’s not on their radar. They may very well see the need for affinity-type groups, but the underlying cultural presuppositions will not be examined, unless God gives them a wake up call.

    The NT Antioch church under God’s leadership made itself cultural relevant to Greeks. Can we even get a grasp on the huge cultural shift from a Hebrew culture format to a Greek format?

    Blessings.

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