Picking A Church and Picking a Restaurant

10711043_304078233129931_8049299650858109913_nMy buddy Micah probably knows what makes a great restaurant (consult this article) as he’s preparing to open his new place Oak and Ore.

What are we looking for when we go to the restaurant? What makes a great restaurant? People want great food of course. They want a knowledgeable, helpful, friendly staff that adds a real human element and personal touch. They want to see teamwork. They want to see cleanliness. They want to see attention to details. They want to be comfortable and not rushed. They want consistency. They want a good concept that is well-executed. They want to feel good about the value they received, no matter how much they paid. If we feel those things, or a certain number of those things – we’ll come back and suggest it to our friends (and that’s true in church too).

I want those things. I’m hoping to get them at Oak and Ore, but I love Micah so I’m sure I’ll cut him some slack if it’s not perfect the first time. I’ll also help him out, steer people there and keep at it because I love and care about him and his family and I believe in what he’s doing.

What do people look for in a new church? Church planters wonder about this. Church growth experts can tell us what surveys say. Word of mouth and just statistics can give us some answers. Where are people going?

The bad news is that not many people do go? What do people look for in church? – eh. They don’t look for anything. They don’t go. 80% don’t go in Oklahoma City. So churches aren’t just killing it. My friend Ricky Jones says people are looking for something better than getting out of bed and staying at home. Sadly, many churches aren’t better than that.

If they do come, experts tell us they’re looking for friendliness, parking, nursery and a good message. Probably in just about that order. Many of us get pretty fixated on theology and music, but if someone can’t park and get a seat in the back, that person probably won’t be back. Even if you don’t have a child in the nursery, people want to see if you have your act together to help and protect children. They want to be greeted but not swarmed. They want to feel like they can talk to someone and find their way around but not like they need to fill out their SSN right away.

But if you fulfill all of those requirements, or if you have a certain buy in? What then? How much is a church like a restaurant? How much do we we need to know and promote our concept? How consistent do we need to be? Should there be a certain messiness to church? Should something be required of you? What is the reason that someone would start to look for someone different?

There are aspects where a church and a restaurant are similar. We need recommendations. We’re trying to serve people. We’re one choice of many.

But the way church is supposed to work is that you join it. You became a part of it. You start cooking and serving there. You pick one and stick with it. You appreciate the others and work together but you find yourself and your people in the one place. It has a bigger, wider, fuller job than just to serve you for 90 minutes. Do we think of it that way? Do we understand the differences? And the similarities? Do we join in service and love?

Then there is this – the redemptive love of Christ. God saves sinners.