Over the weekend a mailer hit mailboxes in my neighborhood, ironically everywhere but my house. The postcard was inviting people to a new church plant up the street. Forget about the cost, I can’t think of many situations where mass mailers work and I’m a marketing consultant.
The irony here shouldn’t be lost. A new church plant was trying to introduce themselves to the neighborhood via anonymous unsolicited mail.
Curiously, I wasn’t the one upset by the postcard. My neighbours were telling me how ‘pissed’ they were an anonymous church that nobody had heard of (they briefly thought it was me) and had zero connection, would try to say hello. The church part wasn’t the problem, the issue was how an unknown entity without any equity in the neighborhood sought trust.
People on my street cut through the feeble attempt immediately. It was out of place in their worldview (as it should be) and came across as disingenuous. Not a good first impression to say the least.
I think if we analyze this honestly, was the the postcard an attempt to get to know people, or was it a ploy to get more people to the church service itself? After all, the measure of success for most church plants is how fast it can be self sufficient. Since the church has done little in the neighborhood and nobody lives in the neighborhood, it’s not hard to assume the latter.
Keep in mind, it’s difficult to build a gospel culture through the church service down. Radical hospitality, the physical expression of incarnation in the neighborhood, only happens when you’re physically present.
The church transplant sent from a suburban mega-church could very well stick around for a while. It offers a safe contemporary service with enough bells and whistles to attract curious looky loos of their own kind, maybe they’ll cannibalize the smaller churches around it too. Being sent off with a solid 60 people of their own also increases the money pool and therefore the longevity. But to suggest there’s a connection to the neighborhood is far fetched. This has to be earned; relational equity is built over the course of decades.
So here’s the tough question. If the extent of your interaction with a neighborhood is an anonymous mailer that went from the mailbox to the recycle bin, why bother at all?