If your church has never experienced problems with church announcements, there is no need for you to read the rest of this post.
If your church is like the 95 percent of congregations that do struggle with announcements, please continue reading.
To be clear, I am speaking of verbal announcements made during a worship service. For this post, I am not concerned specifically about the digital announcements that appear on a church website, a screen before or after worship services, or a church newsletter. This issue is all about those times when someone stands up to speak to the entire congregation.
So what’s the big deal about church announcements? How could something so innocuous cause problems? Here are five reasons:
- Someone’s announcement is left out. On more than one occasion, announcements are left out either inadvertently or by design. A person feels slighted because his or her area of ministry or activity is particularly important to them.
- Someone’s announcement gets more emphasis than others. The reasons are the same as noted above. I actually heard one woman say she timed each individual announcement to prove the pastor showed favoritism. Sigh.
- The announcements take too long. More than one congregant has become frustrated due to the length of the announcements, especially if the issue in number four takes place.
- The announcements interrupt the flow of worship. Perhaps the worst time to have verbal announcements is after the worship service has begun. While singing, preaching, and the offertory definitely reflect acts of worship, it’s hard to see how the announcements fit in that category. If you have to make announcements, precede the worship service with them.
- Most people forget announcements. Try an experiment. Talk to someone you saw in the worship service one or two days later. See if he or she remembers the announcements. Probably not.
Some of these same issues play out in digital venues as well. People get angry or get their feelings hurt because of the placement or perceived priority of announcements on the church’s website or social media accounts.
The churches that seem to be handling the verbal announcements best are actually doing them on a very limited basis. The leaders make sure the announcements are important to the entire congregation, and that they reflect clearly a major issue for the church. Other announcements go to the newsletter or to the web site.
Unless there is an overriding reason, announcements that pertain to a small portion of the membership really should not be considered church announcements in any form. Usually there is no reason why the leader of that group cannot contact every person individually.
It is sad that announcements can be such sources of contention. It is a reflection of a self-centered “me attitude.”
But unfortunately the issue is very real in many churches.
Let me know what you think.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on April 11, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.
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Barry L. Davis
By Barry L. Davis
Steven Arterburn writes: One of the first persons to enter our New Life Treatment Centers was a confirmed atheist. One night he flew into a suicidal rage and out of desperation sought a phone book to find the number of a psychiatrist. At 3:00 a.m. few psychiatrists are available, but ours answered her phone. She instructed the desperate man to come to the center that night. He woke up the next morning and said that if there were a God, he had played a terrible trick by landing him in a Christian treatment center. It was tough for him to stay but he struggled and managed to make it to the fourth day
On the evening of the fourth day, the man accompanied other alcoholic patients to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. At the end of the meeting, a young boy stood up and asked for help. He told them he was suicidal. He said he was visualizing, in full color, putting a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. The atheist could relate to the boy, since he had been in the same frame of mind four days earlier.
When the boy sat down, silence filled the room. Suddenly, the back door of the room opened and a man walked in wearing what looked like a turban and a hospital robe. He said that his wife and kids were in the car, but he felt God wanted him to come into the room and say something. He had not heard the boy but said, “If anyone here is thinking of killing yourself, I want to encourage you to reconsider. God loves you and wants you to live. This turban on my head is a bandage from where I put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger. Fortunately, I survived so I could come here and tell you not to do it. God loves you.” That day our atheist patient lost his atheism.
I love that true story and what it tells us about the lengths God will go to bring someone into a relationship with Him. But I also know that God doesn’t always work that way, and that often when we are dealing with those who are not yet Christians, we need the ability to persuade them that the way of Christ is the right way. To do that we need the power of persuasion that God offers to us. In a moment we’re going to look at what that involves, but first I’d like to dispel some…
FALSE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE UNCHURCHED
These are things we think are generally true of non-Christians, but they aren’t. And until we get some of these false assumptions out of our minds, we will not be nearly as effective as we’d like to be.
They know who Jesus is.
It is true that most people who grew up in the United States and other first world countries have at least heard of Jesus. Most people know that there is a connection between Jesus, Christmas, and Easter. But beyond that I have found that the vast majority of non-Christian people do not know much about Jesus at all, or what He came here to accomplish.
They do not know of His love and compassion, or that He desires more than anything to be in a relationship with them. Most do not realize that Jesus is God in the flesh who came to save them from their lost condition – in fact, most don’t know that they have a lost condition.
And what about those from countries where Christianity is not openly practiced or is even forbidden? Many of those immigrating to our countries know nothing about Jesus at all. And while we don’t want to be condescending to people, at the same time we don’t want to assume they know something they don’t.
They don’t want to know about Jesus.
The thought behind this false assumption is that the reason these people don’t know about Jesus is because they don’t want to know about Jesus. But nothing could be further from the truth – most unchurched folks that I’ve met want to learn about Jesus and want to dialogue about Him. What they don’t want is someone just shoving Jesus down their throat.
Let me give you an example – let’s say I go up to a non-Christian and say “If you died today do you know if you would go to heaven?” Now that is a technique that has been taught in the past. The idea is that the person will say “No,” and then you will proceed to tell them how to accept Jesus as Savior. The problem is that approach doesn’t involve dialogue, doesn’t respect the person’s intelligence, and doesn’t really teach them anything about Jesus at all. What the unchurched want is to be able to be talked to as an adult, be able to agree or disagree, and to come to their own conclusions.
They cannot be convinced about Jesus.
Again, this is completely false – many reading this were once unchurched adults who eventually made a decision for Jesus Christ. They learned of Jesus, weighed the evidence, and decided that He was the one who could make them whole. When you show respect, allow them to ask questions, give them solid answers, and do it in love; you will be able to persuade others to believe in Jesus Christ.
THE POWER TO PERSUADE INVOLVES…
A priest, a doctor, and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer asked, “What’s with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes.” The doctor agreed: “I’ve never seen such slow golfers.” The pastor said, “Hey, here comes the groundskeeper. Let’s have a word with him.” The pastor called out to the groundskeeper, “Say, George, what’s with the group ahead of us?” George said, “That’s a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”
The group was silent for a moment. The pastor sympathized, “That’s so sad. I think I’ll say a special prayer for them tonight.” The doctor added, “That’s a good idea. In fact, I’m going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if we can do anything for these guys.” Then the engineer spoke up: “Well that’s great, but in the meantime, why can’t these guys play at night?”
This guy had a passion for golf, but no compassion for the blind firefighters. Sometimes we see that in the church – a passion for the truth and correct doctrine, but no passion for the unchurched and what they mean to God who loves them. Jesus gave this as a purpose statement in Luke 19:10:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10
There is a passion here that cannot be denied. Jesus left the glory of heaven to come to people who would reject Him, because He wanted to give them a chance. The same is true for us – if we want to persuade the unchurched to become Christians it must start from a heart that truly cares about them. You know that old saying is true – people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. If a person thinks I’m talking to them about Jesus just to add their name to a church membership book they are going to tune me out immediately. If they know that I truly am concerned about them as an individual they might just be willing to give me a listen.
When we are talking to people who are not in a relationship with God we cannot expect them to immediately become a Christian the moment we talk to them. For most of them it takes some time – for some it takes a whole lot of time. We cannot expect everyone to instantly adopt our value system, and while we are praying and waiting for the time to come to pass when they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior we absolutely have to be patient with them. We get our example for this from God the Father.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9
Do you ever think God just gets tired of it all and says “Hey, let’s just wrap this thing up” – but He keeps holding off, keeps being patient, because He knows that day after day more people are going to come into a relationship with Him. Whenever I get impatient with an unchurched person I try to remember how patient God has been with me as I’ve struggled and learned to become more like His Son. You can slap God in the face; you can turn your back on Him; you can blaspheme Him, but you cannot keep Him from wanting to save you. You cannot keep Him from loving you, for He provided a Savior, His own Son, to die in your place. And the patience that God has demonstrated toward us is the same patience we must demonstrate toward those that are still far from Him if we ever expect to have a chance to persuade them that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
In Christian circles we tend to repeat the same old tired clichés that convince no one outside of Christianity of anything. We say things like “I know the Bible is inspired because it inspires me.” Or “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Or the old hymn lyrics, “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” I can remember before making a decision for Christ, sitting in church, listening to those lyrics and thinking, “So what? Prove that He lives within your heart.”
The fact of the matter is, and I know I’m saying this at the risk of offending a few of you – but that is a really, really, really bad song. The Bible never gives any such nonsense about believing in Christ simply because you’ve got the warm fuzzies. Instead God offers us proof.
Paul had recently been converted to Christ and was appearing before various groups offering evidence that Jesus was really who He claimed to be and that He had risen from the dead. He didn’t say, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” He didn’t say “I know that Jesus lives because He lives within my heart” What He said was, “here is solid evidence for why you should believe in Jesus.”
But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. – Acts 9:22
And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. – Acts 9:29
And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” –Acts 17:2-3
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. – 1 Peter 3:15
It is interesting that we are called “to give a defense” – in other words, God wants us to offer evidence to the unchurched for what we believe. Where do you get the information you need to offer proof? There are many good resources out there by Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, Cornelius Van Til, and many others, that will help you to explain what you believe and why you believe it.
When people ask us, “Why do you believe in the resurrection?” we need to be able to offer them some solid proof. If we don’t, we shouldn’t expect them to respond. I realize that some people don’t ask for evidence and they will accept Jesus without it, but for those who do, we need to be prepared. We are asking them to completely do a U-Turn and change their entire lives. I think they deserve some good reasons for doing that before they make that decision.
I recently heard about a boy who was the apple of his parents’ eyes. Tragically, in his mid-teens, the boy’s life went off-track. He dropped out of school and began associating with a bad crowd. One night he staggered into his house at 3:00 a.m., completely drunk. His mother slipped out of bed and left her room. The father followed, assuming that his wife was in the kitchen, perhaps crying. Instead, he found her at her son’s bedside, softly stroking his matted hair as he lay passed out drunk on the covers. “What are you doing?” the father asked. The mother answered, “He won’t let me love him when he’s awake.” The mother stepped into her son’s darkness with a love that existed even though he did not yet love her back – so it is with God and us.
When we truly love the unchurched we will persist in our love, in our patience, and in our giving of proof to them, even when they seem to reject us and our message. I’m not talking about forcing something on someone that doesn’t want to hear, but in persisting with those who have open ears until they finally decide to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ and then discipling them beyond that. Even when we think we have failed, we press on, because the task is too important to give up on.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s precisely why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
If persistence is that important in basketball, surely it is much greater when it comes to persuading our friends, family, and others to come to faith in Christ.
In his book Leadership That Works, pastor Leith Anderson writes about the evangelistic strategy of a woman named Kathy: She was a successful stockbroker in Minneapolis who easily made friends and had the gift of evangelism. She used to go to the pool at her apartment complex, settle on a chaise lounge, read a book, and eventually strike up a conversation with whoever sat next to her. Soon the two would become friends, and Kathy would begin talking very comfortably about her Christian faith. Bringing newcomers to church was her regular practice. She was so good at this that she was invited to serve on the church evangelism board. When Kathy asked me what I thought about the idea, I said, “It seems ridiculous. Why would we put someone who is so good at evangelism in a room for hours with people who are already Christians? Let someone else serve on the evangelism board while you sit out by the pool.”
I think he’s onto something here. Perhaps it is time to quit talking about persuading others to join with Christ, and instead going out to where they are at and with passion, patience, proof, and persistence, leading them to the throne room of God.
 Arterburn, Steven and Felton, Jack. More Jesus, Less Religion (Waterbrook, 2000), p. 63
Michael Jordan, quoted in, Ward, Steve. High Performance Trading: 35 Practical Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Your Trading Psychology and Performance. (Great Britain: Harriman House, 2009), 240.
 Anderson, Leith. Leadership That Works (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 1999), 135-136.
Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1996. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling.