The Community Is Not Coming to Your Church

For decades, many church strategies have been built around getting people in the community to come to your church. Big events. Great signage. Social media marketing. The attractional church. You get the picture.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with any of the “y’all come” approaches. Frankly, those are better than what most churches do to reach people: nothing.

The Old Paradigm

Most of the church growth tactics of the past half-century were built on the premise of expecting people from the community to attend our churches. But these strategies were built upon an assumption that most people in our communities were looking for a church home. Well, they are not looking anymore. And it is mainly futile to build a strategy upon a flawed premise.

The old paradigm meant that a few churches were at least seeking ways to get people to attend our churches. But the less healthy churches just expected people to show up because the church had a building and a sign. As one less-than-friendly church member told me during an interview I conducted for a church consultation: “I don’t even know why you are here. People in the community know where our church is located. They can come if they want to.”

I am glad I didn’t respond with the immediate thoughts on my mind.

The Necessary Paradigm

Though it sounds basic, the essence of the Great Commission is to go. The Great Commission does not say to develop the best events and build the best facilities so people will naturally come to your church. On the contrary, it says get out into the messy world and culture where we live, show the love of Christ to people in that culture, and tell them the good news of Christ.

This necessary paradigm means we must be intentional about pre-evangelism. We must invite people to church. We must develop relationships with people who are not followers of Christ. We must show people we care about them.

This necessary paradigm means we must be intentional about direct evangelism. We must provide evangelistic training and tools that our members will actually use. We must have prayer ministries that focus on evangelism and opportunities to share our faith. And we must share the gospel.

The necessary paradigm means we must make sure our members are biblically grounded. Our team at Church Answers surveys the church members in consultations to help us understand the attitudes and beliefs of the congregants. This survey, called Know Your Church™, has been eye-opening. Around forty percent of the active members we’ve surveyed since the COVID quarantine do not believe that Jesus is the only way of salvation. These members have deleted John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 from their Bibles.

You will not have the motivation to tell people about Jesus if you think there are other options.

It Is Time

Most of our congregations were structured to get people to come to our churches. But the Bible is clear that our mandate is to go to them.

Until we get that right, our churches will not grow. They will not be healthy.

It is time.

It is time to go into our communities instead of simply expecting them to come to us.

It is simple but radical for most churches.

But anything else is defiant disobedience to the Lord we serve.


Posted on June 13, 2022

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • This is a great concept, but its guilty of YBH. Yes, but how? The church today doesn’t need more commands to go! We already have that – the Great Commission from Jesus tell us to go! What the church needs is the HOW. Do some equipping! Jesus at least spent 3 years teaching his disciples HOW to go before he commanded them to go. Please do at least one article as emphatically stated with some HOW TO GO statements that apply to the culture we are in. Thank you

  • I was thinking that same thought just this morning before I saw your blog. Spot on!

  • Ann Jones says on

    This is not a new thought for our church…we have had buses which transported children and the elderly to services…we have planted churches and established a mission ( never intended to be a church plant ) with the vision of full time…7 day …ministry in the comjunity (after school tutoring and activities with Bible study and time for sharing Jesus’ words. for living …….we have taken VBS and Bible study to the community….as well as the church facility…we have involved youth in mission activities…locally as well as travel locations…. Believers ( new and old ) are blessed with instruction and opportunities to witness and serve God as they gather to worship Him!! Agendas change as new staff leadership bring their vision of how God is leading them to accomplish His Will…BUT…the focus should always remain…SHARE the GOOD NEWS… the CONSEQUENSES of OUR CHOICES,,, and the FACT…Jesus IS coming back for His own….The question is… WHO IS READY ?

  • Amen! This is the mission of Operation Inasmuch. We travel all over the globe helping churches mobilize their members in compassion ministry within their community. “Out of the seats and into the streets” is our motto! We’d be honored to talk with any church interested in joining the compassion movement!

  • Jim Turpin says on

    Win them to Jesus then Bring them to church! Should be our new Motto

  • Church is no longer “Field of Dreams” – “Build it and they will come.”

    We have been doing work revisioning our church and discerning the way ahead. A member of our Diocesan staff told a group of us, in essence, that there has been a shift in society over my lifetime (approaching 60) where it cannot be assumed that anyone we meet has a religious background or a predisposition to be in a church. Maybe in the 1970s and 80s that was possible, but today – people are not socially wired to go to church. Say what we want, those are the facts.

    Much of the growth in churches will be realized through building relationships. And, in my estimation, those relationships will be less centered on worship and program and more focused on Christians living the commission. As an adage goes: make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. It is my experience that society tends to inward focus, which flies in the face of humanity – an outward focus and being in groups.

    The dual edged sword: having to sustain the workers who are trying to make a difference while surrendering what was to become what is supposed to be.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Great thoughts, Les.

    • Ron & Lynda Wright says on

      Yes, this is the Missing Link in most churches. Jesus Command to go is not being practiced today. “GO” means “GO”. In action we are Not GOING, yes we unlock the doors so that they can get in and that takes the “GO” weight off our shoulders.
      I recently heard a Pastor who’s church does “GO”; they were out GOING, met on older lady who was about to commit suicide, they shared the Good News of JESUS with her and she Accepted JESUS into her heart that very visit to her home.
      Her Etetnal destiny was totally changed from Hell to Heaven. That’s what JESUS meant when HE told everyone who claims to be a Born Again Believer to do if we claim to have our name written in HIS Book of Life.

  • Amen, brother, Dr.!!!!!