Why Trying to Reach Everybody Is a Really Bad Evangelism Strategy

reach everybody

It’s so hard not to do it.

I’ve done it. Maybe you’ve also done it as a church leader.

The problem? Thinking that the goal of your church is to reach everyone.

It sounds appropriate. I get that. I mean what else are you going to say? I’m only going to reach a few people. Some people? No people?

Besides, the Gospel is for everyone.

Yet, as much as we hate it, most of us know the truth: that trying to reach everybody is one of the fastest ways to ensure you’ll reach nobody.

I know that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but hang in there.

There are at least three reasons that trying to reach everybody is a really bad strategy and why focusing on reaching a particular segment of person is a much better approach.

Here’s why.

Trying to reach everybody is one of the fastest ways to ensure you'll reach nobody. Click To Tweet

1. Nobody’s Actually Reaching Everybody 

Think about your church today. You are currently reaching a segment of the population—not the entire population. You’re not reaching everybody. I’m not reaching everybody. Nobody’s reaching everybody.

Wait, you say…some brands have massive reach. Like Instagram for example.

Want a surprise? Only 35% of online users are on Instagram. Even Instagram has missed the majority of population.  It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that you can reach everybody, but the truth is that even the largest organizations in the world simply don’t.

Not only is thinking you’re going to reach everybody delusionary, it’s also bad theology.

Your church is a church, but it’s not the Church. The Church consists of hundreds of millions of Christians and hundreds of thousands of churches and congregations around the world and within your community.

To think your church is the entire body of Christ is to usurp the role of who range of other believers and congregations.

Is your church for everyone? No it’s not. The Gospel for everyone, and your church gets to play a part.

Is your church for everyone? No it's not. The Gospel for everyone, and your church gets to play a part. Click To Tweet

It’s going to take more than just your church to reach your city. And more than just you to reach your community. To think you can do it all is more than little bit arrogant and bordering on heretical.

I love that you want to reach everybody (I still do too), but you’ll actually reach more people if you get more focused.

Your church is not the body of Christ. It’s a part of the body of Christ.

Your church is not the body of Christ. It's a part of the body of Christ. Click To Tweet

2. You’re Best Equipped to Reach A Particular Kind of People

Sure, just like you, I want everyone to love our church and everyone to love me.

And that’s the problem right there.

In addition to unpacking that in a counselor’s office (here’s a free blog post on people pleasing to get you started), the truth is people and congregations attract certain kinds of people, just like hip hop attracts a certain audience, alternative music attracts and other, and coffee shop acoustic yet another.

Look at your current church. The people you’re reaching probably represent a particular demographic.

Even if your church is multi-ethnic and multi-generational (which would be amazing), you are likely reaching a particular segment of people within the broader demographic.

Your church has a style, feel and culture that attracts certain groups. In Western culture, people self-select based on what your organization has to offer, just like Walmart shoppers are different than Nordstrom shoppers.

In addition, the way you do church (a combination of your mission and vision, but even more importantly, your organizational culture and strategy) has an inevitable filtering effect:

Your music is going to attract some people and bother others.

Your teaching style and content is going to connect better with some than others.

The people who already make up your church are more likely to attract others like themselves; like attracts like.

Your location and even the architectural style of the building in which you gather (whether that’s a school, a theater, a gothic cathedral, a contemporary suburban mega-church, an A-frame 50s landmark, or a living room) make some feel at home while pushing others away.

Your leadership style is compelling to some people and not so much for others.

I’m not saying this is the way it should be. And I’m certainly not saying we should segregate our churches racially/economically/socio-economically. I’m just saying your particular vibe, integrated as it may be, attracts a certain kind of person.

This is why ice cream shops have dozens of flavours. It’s also why the Body of Christ has many different members, all of which play a part.

We’re not all the same, and God uses a variety of people to reach a variety of people.

Far too many church leaders spend their time fighting these realities.

Rather than cooperate with the way people naturally gather, too many leaders resist it.

I agree there are times we need to fight that. A church with no cultural diveristy in a culturally diverse city functions more like a club than a church.

And a congregation with only the rich and no people on social assistance deeply worries me. Some churches attract only insiders or an age demographic that makes the future impossible. When I began in ministry, we had mostly handfuls of people over 65 attending the churches in which I served. The future wasn’t bright, nor was the church effective in its mission.

In those cases (and some others) you need to change your culture to reach the broader culture.

But still, are you going to reach everybody?

No. No you’re not.

Rather than cooperate with the way people naturally gather, too many leaders resist it. We're not all the same, and God uses a variety of people to reach a variety of people. Click To Tweet

3. You’ll Die People Pleasing

Leaders who try to create a church that reaches everyone die people pleasing.

Trying reach everybody easily descends into trying to please everybody. And trying to please everyone means you’ll ultimately please no one.

Too many church leaders already struggle with people-pleasing. It can be hard not to.

But people pleasing leaders struggle deeply with being bold.  It leaves you tToo afraid to try something new. Too afraid to even dream.

If you struggle wit people pleasing, you’ll reduce potentially great initiatives to the least offensive version you can find, hoping everyone will buy in.

Except your ability to attract new people just went out the window.

The only people who really like your new idea are a small core of the people who already liked your old idea…and any growth potential is jettisoned.

Trying reach everybody easily descends into trying to please everybody. And trying to please everyone means you'll ultimately please no one. Click To Tweet

Here’s the lesson far too many leaders never learn about trying to offend as few people as possible:

If you attempt to offend no one, you will eventually become irrelevant to everyone.

Now, here’s the promise in an otherwise disconcerting thought-stream:

Your church should be open to everyone, but you will be best at reaching a particular someone.

And that’s okay.

Instead of competing with that, why not co-operate with it?

After all, your church is not the body of Christ. It is part of the body of Christ.

Play your part.

Can you imagine the pressure that will release?

If you attempt to offend no one, you will eventually become irrelevant to everyone. Click To Tweet

So How Do You Change That?

Where I serve at Connexus, our vision is to create churches unchurched people love to attend.

In particular, we’ve chosen to focus on young, unchurched families. It’s hard to zero in on a group like that, but it’s worth it. The seniors and the young adults and the kids and the teens and the empty nesters and the young marrieds and the singles and the blended families can’t all be equally important. They just can’t be.

So we picked unchurched young families.

As a result:

  • We don’t try to please people who want a church for the already-convinced.
  • Christians who have no passion for friends and neighbours who aren’t in a relationship with Christ are not our main concern.
  • We don’t feel the pressure to offer 100 programs and in fact often point people to community organizations or neighbouring churches that do much better jobs in those areas. Sometimes we encourge people to find their own way to meet those needs. We focus on the few things that will help us best accomplish our mission.
  • Sunday services are designed with young unchurched people in mind. Naturally, what that looks like continues to change and morph, but the focus on helping unchurched young adults come into a relationship with Jesus has remained the same.
  • We specifically target the feel of our services and culture to connect with a 30-year-old unchurched man, believing that if the man comes, so (gladly) will his family and friends (and often his parents, and sometimes even grandparents).

I realize this is contrary thinking for most people, but for us it’s resulted in reaching more unchurched people than we ever have before (or than many churches in our community and country), with the majority of our growth being from self-identified unchurched people. Which is, after all, kind of why we started the church in the first place.

And which is maybe why you started or lead your church.

So…rethink this.

Is your church for everyone? No it’s not.

The Gospel for everyone, and your church gets to play a part.

Ready To See Your Church Grow?

In an age where 94% of churches are plateaued, declining or not keeping pace with their communities, can you turn that around? Can your church grow again?

In my two decades of church leadership, we’ve overcome a lot of odds to see our church grow from a handful of people to over 3500 people who call our church home today. So the good news is, it’s more than possible to reach people.

But first, let me clarify something. I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow.

You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people.

That’s what I’d love to help you do in my new online course, the Church Growth Masterclass.  

You likely didn’t get into ministry to watch your church plateau or, worse yet, decline. Yet that’s where so many churches find themselves today.

You’re not alone.

That’s why I put together the Church Growth Masterclass. It’s everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

In the Church Growth Masterclass I’ll help you and your team discover:

  • 10 likely reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before (more than what we covered in this post)
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The five keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

And for a limited time, we have introductory pricing.

Check it out while you can still get in at the best rates.

What Are You Learning?

What are you learning about trying to reach everyone?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

2 Comments

  1. son on May 18, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Carey, dear brother, what is Joel Osteen doing that you’re not doing? (If anything)
    Is it even possible that “church” today is competing with. entertainment such as
    concerts, tv specials, whtever?
    Is “going to church on Sunday” becoming a lost tradition? This world is upside-down.
    Could it possibly be that going to church might become like taking a ride in the
    horse-and-buggy back in 1870? A Sunday tradition that is past its time?
    Again I ask, what is Joel Osteen doing that you’re not doing? Maybe try that?
    It’s easy enough to watch Osteen’s shtick on youtube. Maybe check it out?

  2. Michael Marien on May 18, 2019 at 9:16 am

    An interesting reflection Carey. When I ask my team who are we seeking, we seem to be all over the map. The “New Evangelization “ in the Catholic Church calls us to evangelize ourselves first. I think reflecting on discipleship is the first step. Once we own the gift of missionary discipleship give to us at Baptism, we as members ( and not just the “team”) of our parish can reach out more effectively. I just don’t think we are there yet.

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