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Making Church Relevant

by Chris Johnson

Interact Magazine 1991

Volume 2 Number 2

Rick Warren began his church in 1980. Then, he had no members, no buildings and no money. Today his church has between 4,500 and 7,000 people on any given Sunday, has planted 16 daughter churches, and has recently purchased a block of land worth 9,000,000 dollars.

If anyone has the credibility to speak about church growth, it is Rick Warren.

The area of Saddleback (where Rick has his church) can boast some of the finest Bible expositors in the world: Charles Swindol, John MacArthur, Chuck Smith and several others. As a result, Rick decided to exclusively target non-Christians, since the Christians were already being taken care of.

After surveying the community, Rick found that the four greatest reasons why people don’t attend church are these:

  1. Sermons are boring, irrelevant and unrelated to life.

  2. Churches are unfriendly to visitors.

  3. There is too much emphasis on money.

  4. People want quality child care.


Rick’s conclusion was that ‘Most people are not atheists. They are simply turned off church.’

With these four criticisms in mind, Rick set about developing a church to reach non-Christians. This is a brief summary of how he did it. It is based on his seminar during a recent visit to Australia, sponsored by the Baptist Union.

Ways to Build a Worship Service that Will Attract and Reach the Unchurched

A. DEFINE YOUR ROLE – Specialise your services

Rick suggests the first question we need to ask ourselves is what kind of church we are going to be. Are we to be a traditional or contemporary church, a formal or an informal church? We can’t aim at half a dozen different targets. We need to specialise our services, making one service definitely for Christians and another definitely for non-Christians. For example, if the unchurched are more likely to come to a Sunday morning service, then make that service especially meaningful for them. This means that on Sunday morning you would be preaching on issues that relate to everybody, Christians and non-Christians. The Sunday evening service (or in Rick’s case Wednesday evening) would become a doctrinal, expository preaching service.

B. STREAMLINE THE SERVICES – Make every minute count

A good way to do this is to time every element of the services. then ascertain whether there is too much time spent on one item and not enough on another. Minimise transition times between one facet and another. Why? Because we are dealing with a TV generation which has a short attention span. TV has geared this generation to demand a fast pace. If you watch cricket on the TV you see that between balls you get slow motion, action replays, and between overs they cram in at least one, possibly two, ads. people don’t get a chance to be bored. This has geared them to a fast-moving mentality. Our services therefore should flow quickly to attract the unchurched. They must be exciting. A good measure would be to plan services as if we had to do them for TV, eg. we can double our ushers to cut the offering time in half. If the unchurched come to our church, we have a responsibility to make every minute count and feed them for the next week.


Never ask visitors to stand up and tell you their name or where they are from, or to put on a red ribbon that tells you they are visitors.

Rev Kel Willis is the Director of Christian Growth Ministries Inc.

© Kel Willis (1 March 1991)

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