“Who is my Neighbor?”
A Law Expert asked Jesus this question immediately after hearing “love your neighbor as yourself” and Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan to answer it. “A neighbor is the one who shows mercy” is the loose translation of the answer.
Often people ask me how to locate an “audience” for the church. “Who is my audience?” they might as well ask. I’m not adept at parable telling so, unlike Jesus, I’m just going to take a stab at telling you the answer, except without the allegory.
• External Audience. This is often the group of people that most churches consider their “audience”. We call it your potential audience. The people who most fit your church’s “DNA”. They are the people that will be attracted by your message, your members, and the unique qualities of your programming and benefits. ??That’s the joy of the local church. And why everyone doesn’t go to the same church. God intended us to encourage one another and share the good news of Jesus in the local body — and we all know that we tend to “flock” together in similarities. But we all have the same ultimate message.
Two things to consider: What’s your DNA and your Benefits? How would you describe the Demographics of the church and your community? These answers will help you discover the external audience you should pursue.
Point of Caution: like the Parable of the Good Samaritan, we should be reaching out to EVERYONE with mercy. It’s not to say that they’ll end up in your church, but instead, you can introduce them to our Savior and then another church that will better fit their needs if necessary.
• Internal Audience. This is an often forgotten audience. We usually reach out to the external community to show mercy and compassion while forgetting those in the pew.
Two things to consider: We need to meet the member’s needs by listening to their concerns and hearts — through sermons and assistance. Often (again like the parable) we “walk on by” those within our walls to assist those outside. Also, in marketing, we must give our members materials to remind them of the benefits of the church and materials that they can pass on to people they know. Remember, we all flock together with people similar to us. So what better way to outreach than for your own members to do it.
Examples: Postcards, brochures, custom web pages, social networks, etc. pop into my mind as some easy ways to do this.
• Yourself. You and your staff are an audience. How is the church showing YOU mercy?
Two things to consider: You need to protect yourself and your family. Spend the time you need to develop a relationship with your wife and kids. Too often I see or hear of Pastors who have family issues that aren’t good testimonies for the church! And you also need to endeavor to grow. Education, reading books, seminars and a personal devotional and prayer time is needed. What have you done for you lately!
The church has been called to pursue an audience. Let’s pursue all three of these audiences with passion! Any “real life” suggestions for others reading this?