Your theology doesn’t matter

Ben Reed —  September 11, 2013 — 15 Comments

I have a Nike+ running watch that tracks distance, pace, calories, and GPS. I wear it while I run, and it gives me instant feedback. When I’m done running, I plug it into my computer, and it tracks my progress over time.

It’s really a great piece of equipment.

Nike-GPS-Watch

image via Nike.com

But mine started messing up.

And I began to get pretty frustrated. I’ve had the watch for a year-and-a-half or more, so I just knew that when I called customer service I was going to be told, “Sorry…you’re outside of the warranty period. There’s nothing we can do. We wish we could help.”

When I called, I was blown away by what I heard on the other end. (here’s the gist)

Hey Mr. Reed, I understand your problem. I’m so sorry that’s happening. I know how frustrating that must be. I’m a runner myself, and I use a watch just like yours. I want mine to work every time. Let’s try a few things. If they don’t work, we’ll work on getting you a replacement.

They were already promising something that most companies would only use in cases of extremely irate customers. They actually established a relationship in the first 30 seconds, and already offered customer service superior to 99% of other companies I’ve ever talked to over the phone.

You know what that translates into for me?

I’m a Nike customer for life.

I’m going to buy Nike shoes. Use Nike watches. Wear Nike socks. Eat Nike spaghetti.

Because I believe that they care about, and will take care of, me. I believe they’re passionate about their product…and that they’re going to stand behind and replace it if something happens. My customer experience with them has made me a customer for life. Even though other companies may make a better running shoe, come out with a cooler watch, or release a whole new line of socks designed for people just like me.

I just became a loyal Nike customer. Even though I may disagree with Nike’s core principles. May not support the same initiatives that they support. And if I were to sit down and have a conversation about morality with them, I’m sure I’d find myself on a different page than they are.

I’m loyal to them because of my customer service experience.

The Church’s message

The same thing is true in our churches.

If you want to make loyal “customers,” (people who don’t just show up once, but come back regularly) that doesn’t start in the pulpit. That doesn’t start with your theology.*

People could care less about where you stand on the authorship of the book of Hebrews or how long it took to create the Earth. They don’t even care what you believe about the Bible.

When…

  • life’s fallen apart
  • they don’t have any idea what their next step will be
  • they’re a wreck financially
  • their marriage isn’t fun anymore
  • they’ve been burned by the Church in the past
  • they’re coming because their spouse made them
  • they’re just looking for a little help
  • they don’t really want to be there anyway
  • they are skeptical of “church people”

…they could care less about your theology.** What you believe doesn’t matter to them. All that matters is their “customer service” experience:

  • how they were treated in the parking lot
  • how safe they feel dropping their children off
  • how warm and welcome they feel walking in the front door
  • how engaging the music was
  • whether the signage is clear enough to tell them where to go, so they don’t feel dumb walking around clueless
  • whether someone besides the “guy on stage” greets them
  • how they were publicly addressed as visitors

That’s scary, isn’t it? It means that a church with terrible theology, that doesn’t look to Jesus as the answer to hope, grace, mercy, and truth, could swoop in and convince people that their message is life-changing. Because they love people and help them feel cared for.

Your theology isn’t the reason that a visitor is going to stay. Or leave. At least not initially.

You want to fulfill the Great Commission, but you won’t get people to hang around long enough to soak it in unless you give an eye to people’s “customer service” experience.

Does your church have an eye for customer service? What do they do to show people they love them week in and week out?

 

*this is really a theological issue at heart, though. What you believe about our God who loves us despite our sin, who gives us His best (Jesus) to cover our worst drives this others-first behavior. But the specifics about what you believe theologically don’t matter as much to new folks.

**theology matters immensely. What you believe is of primary importance in the local church. And it drives what we do each and every week. But it doesn’t matter to people when they’re on the outside of faith, or when life has fallen apart. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt

 

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Ben Reed

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Christ follower, husband, father, writer, pastor of small groups at Long Hollow Baptist Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.
  • Matthew

    Umm ….(see James 1:27) “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:…” (…engaging music? …a warm greeting? …clear signage?). No.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      How are you going to care for widows and orphans, though, if they don’t know where to go? (clear signage)

      How are you going to show them you care if that doesn’t start in the parking lot?

      How are they going to know you love them if they don’t stick around long enough to hear it? (a warm greeting at the door)

      I don’t disagree with James 1 even one iota. I just think that “caring” goes beyond preaching truth to widows and orphans.

      • Matthew

        Yes, caring goes VERY far beyond “widows & orphans” …but showing them love starts OUTSIDE the Church (not waiting for them to come to us) – which is the mentality that is produced by focusing on “campus” layout, signage, media, and music.

        It all becomes: “let’s blow them away once they show up, but let’s refuse to go MEET them.”

        (Ben, This is not a “personal jab.” It’s just an outlet for the misdirection that I see in the greater Church as a whole.)

        • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

          I’m tracking.

          Let’s do both! Let’s not wait for lost folks to come to us…let’s be in our communities sharing grace, hope, and love.

          But let’s not overlook it when those we’ve loved on show up on a Sunday morning.

          I see the pendulum you’re trying to swing, though, and I like the way you’re thinking.

          You’re adding value to the conversation, Matthew. Thanks.

  • David Fischer

    Great post Ben. Praying we would fulfill the great commission through His great commandment. Loves others richly as we have been loved.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks David. I’m praying the same thing.

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  • Eddie Zdanio

    Great job, Ben. I agree wholeheartedly.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Thanks Eddie!

  • http://Keystonechurch.com/ Matt Anderson

    Great thoughts Ben. Will definitely use this to encourage my team.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Cool…let me know how they respond, Matt!

  • http://ThatGuyKC.com/ ThatGuyKC

    BOOM! Hit the nail on the head, Ben. As the former host team director for our church I saw first hand how immensely important “customer service” was to the church experience. Especially for a first time guest. Every little thing matters.

    Thank you. Godspeed.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Yep, it’s crazy important. If you’ve worked in that area of a church before, like you have, you’ve seen how vital those first few interactions are when a person visits a church.

      The worship experience starts in the parking lot.