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Can the Church be Amazon?

I took this photograph on a recent trip to New York City (I redacted the address because it’s not important). It was the title of the business that really grabbed my attention! I knew that Amazon was looking for new headquarters, but I really thought it might be a bit larger and more modern than this building. Because really, who other than Amazon can actually live into the business name “Any Product Inc.?” 

All the marketing textbooks I have read seem to advise an opposite strategy; to find your niche and specialize. And I would agree, very few businesses can be a “one-stop-shop” for all our consumer needs. It’s definitely not possible for a brick-and-mortar location, even Walmart has its limitations. Online sellers can virtually offer a much larger inventory because they aren’t constrained by their ability to secure warehousing and can leverage the supplies of other vendors. But, ANY PRODUCT, that’s a pretty bold endeavor, even for Amazon.

However, many churches that I have encountered over the years seem to aspire to that “any product” strategy by trying to offer programs to be “all things to all people.” And they base this belief on their interpretation of the Great Commission, “to make disciples of all nations…” But just like our friends at Any Products Inc., we really can’t live into that all-encompassing strategy successfully.

Now hear me clearly, I am NOT saying that we shouldn’t strive for diversity of race, ethnicity, and even ideology. What I am saying is that your local church, as an organization, can’t effectively present itself as a one-stop-shop to cure all that ails us. But Jesus did say ALL… so how do we reach people in our community without becoming a homogenized group of robots that look, sound, and think exactly alike?

Drum roll please, silence, pyrotechnics, the proclamation is… not worthy of all that fanfare! Actually our answer for addressing the dilemma of becoming a one-size fits all church is to combine contemporary marketing strategy with another of Jesus’ ancient-modern teachings that’s as old as the Great Commission itself. Actually, it’s as simple as a two-step plan that the Church has struggled with ever since Jesus gave the Apostles their marching orders.

First, as leaders of local churches, we have to lean into our guide, the Holy Spirit, to understand where God is calling is us to go to “make disciples.” We must then translate that calling into a mission that our people can adopt in their own lives and within the groups they are engaged. We think a lot about our mission strategy but I challenge you to pray more about it and more importantly, motivate your congregation to pray about it, regularly. If the Spirit can lead a ragtag group of fishermen and tax collectors to spread the Gospel around the world, I am totally confident the Spirit can help you share the Gospel around the next corner!

Second, our congregations are filled with people blessed with a multitude of gifts and talents and guess what, they are diverse in how they look, live, and who they interact with every day! Let’s equip all of our people to then “share” the Gospel in a way that their family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. can understand how a relationship with the risen Jesus can change their lives. Then get your teams ready, because they are going to be meeting hundreds of new people looking for peace, healing, or hope like they have seen in their friends.

This is how we accomplish the “all” in the Great Commission; not by being all things to all people, but by engaging all our people to be the church in their lives. My prayer is that you will find the path you are called to follow, expect to meet new people around the corner, and are prepared to help them understand what Jesus can mean to their life!

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