Advertisers pay money to put their adverts in the places where they thing the right people will see them. Daytime TV is full of ads from injury lawyers because they reckon that those who have had an accident at work will be lying on the sofa recuperating.
The internet is getting smarter too. Ads on Facebook are apparently tailored to my profile, which may explain why I have been regularly getting ads for cheap clerical shirts. But the internet is not smart enough yet. They have not worked out that I don’t wear clerical shirts, nor that I am based in England and am very unlikely to be importing clerical shirts that I don’t wear from the good old US of A.
Clearly it is in the interests of companies to try to find potential clients and the software that they use to try to identify such people is getting more sophisticated. I am not going to get into the privacy questions here, which are immense and difficult to work out, nor am I going to have a rant against rampant commercialism. You’ll have to look at other bloggerel I have written for that.
What intrigues me is the idea of targetting those who are most interested. What if churches could somehow discern who was more interested than most in finding out about the Christian faith? We could focus our efforts on them.
In a sense that’s what Back to Church Sunday is about, inviting people who used to go to church to come back, because at least they may be lukewarm and may have some residual happy memories of being in church that we can tap into and use to encourage a return.
In a sense it’s what Alpha courses do, extending an invitation to those who are interested in finding out about the Christian faith to come into a warm, welcoming environment in which to learn and discuss. Those who come are those who are interested.
In a sense it’s what happens on Sundays. Those who come over the threshold of the church are, on the whole, people who want to be there. The majority may already have a vibrant faith but some come to find out more.
There is always room for improvement though. Perhaps we could find out from local census data how many people describe themselves as Christian in our town and compare that with the church attendance figures. That way we could perhaps offer some targeted advertising at the wards in which the disparity is the greatest. Perhaps we could carry out our own local surveys and discover those who say they are Christians but don’t go to church. If we got their contact details we could make sure we contact them and extend invitations to appropriate events or courses.
Or perhaps we could do what Jesus told us to do: “Go and make disciples, teaching and baptising them.” As a strategy goes it’s not very specific. It’s rather lacking in detail. It’s actually pretty vague. He did not say that we should limit ourselves only to those who are interested. He did not say that we should focus on those who are closer to the Kingdom of God. In fact he went out of his way to announce that the Kingdom of God was within the grasp of everyone – whether or not they were ‘warm contacts’.
Who are you sat next to as you read this? Who will you meet later today? Are they ‘warm’ or ‘cold’. It doesn’t matter. God is empowering you by his Spirit to be a free sample of Jesus to them. Making disciples is a gentle process in which God uses us to explain, encourage, discuss, invite, share, bless, serve, support, pray, give and serve (yes I know I said that twice) those around us and give them a taste of Jesus.
Ask for his help and you will be amazed at how much he has already been at work in the lives of those who don’t think they are interested in, or even are hostile to, Jesus.