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New Reality Show Pitch: Church Rescue | Provoketive Magazine
08 May 2013

The Author

I am author of the book, "Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World" from Civitas Press. I also contributed an essay to “The Practice of Love: Real Stories of Living Into the Kingdom of God,” under my pseudonym Arthur Dimmesdale. By trade, I am a certified athletic trainer.

I am keenly interested in the theme of redemption and seeing it play out in the Christian community. I'm also intrigued how tragedy affects Christians and how we view it in relationship with the cross. My theology is somewhere between Asahel Nettleton and Bruce Ware.

I'm originally from Arkansas but currently reside in Western Kentucky. I am a husband to my beautiful wife Allison, and a father to three.


New Reality Show Pitch: Church Rescue

I cannot stand reality television. Well, I take that back. There are a few shows I like. I can handle Storage Wars, Pawn Stars and Auction Hunters (before they added the pawn shop.) But my favorite show is Bar Rescue.

On Spike Network’s Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer, nationally known bar expert, scouts out failing bars for weeks in advance, then goes in and tries to save them. Typically, an episode has him doing a lot of yelling at the management, questioning their motives, not allowing them to make excuses, and bringing in experts to show the kitchen and bartenders how awful they are.

At the end, he rebuilds the bar, usually renames it and everything is better. Before the credits roll, they give an update telling how the bar is doing two months later. Typically, the bar follows the new changes and is saved. On a few occasions, the bar returns to its original theme and name and goes right back to doing terrible.

I know, great stuff, right? Nice to know the bars of America are being saved.

declineAs I was watching the other day, I started thinking about our declining American churches. On top of that, I started thinking about the pastor friends I have across the country and their typical complaints: “We really need to change the old music we have, but it’s never going to happen without a huge fight,” “The leadership just won’t listen to anything. Nothing is going to happen without a leadership change,” “What we need is a younger crowd, but the older generation doesn’t want younger people here.” And so on, and so forth.

So let’s get resident good guy Jeff Foxworthy to host “Church Rescue.” He can grab a host of church experts to find churches that are about to close the doors. Put in some security cameras, have some people pose as visitors to the church and see how they are treated, check out their numbers for the past few years. Heck, even bring in a preaching expert or two.

Then, all at once, just have the expert team just walk into a deacons/elders meeting and start jabbering about all the problems. Show them video footage of how things look to people on the outside and tell them that it’s not going to get better unless things change. Sound good?

Well, maybe not. I bring up that ridiculous idea for a couple of reasons.

First, there are a lot of struggling churches in our country. We all know it. If you’re in a struggling church, you probably have a laundry list of reasons in your head why your church is struggling. Maybe it is the music. Maybe it’s the pastor. Maybe it’s the lack of outreach or young people.

Secondly, there are a lot of struggling pastors. Men who have dedicated their lives to ministry and week after week see nochurchld return for their toil. Sometimes, they just get frustrated and quit. Sometimes, they are self-deceived and they are the problem. Sometimes, too much is expected of them. And other times, they have quit communicating with their church and leadership.

But the common thread is that most people in church want things to be better. They want the gospel to thrive. They want people to be saved and coming to worship.

When I talk to pastors, a lot of times the task seems overwhelming. And it seems like it. And there’s no easy fix, that’s for sure.

Unfortunately, there’s no Jon Taffer church expert walking through the door who can make any nenbership better overnight. And even if there was, it would be for the wrong reasons. It would be based on entertainment, flashy lights and all the wrong things.

Where does it start? With people in church willing to change. To look within. To ask and answer a simple question, “Why aren’t people coming here? Why isn’t this a place that sinners want to come and hear the gospel? Is it something about us? Is the message wrong? Is it our attitude? Is it the way we treat others?

Really, that’s one thing Bar Rescue has right. Taffer challenges the leadership of the bar to question their motives. He wants them to ask themselves, “Are we willing to do what it takes to keep this place open?

Of course, churches shouldn’t be willing to step down to the lowest common denominator to get people in the door. However, we should be ready to ask ourselves, “Is what we are doing in line with Scripture? Are we loving like Christ loved? Are we loving sinners like He did? Are we going after the people Christ went after? Are we willing to have people in our church that don’t look like us?

It would be a process that took God breaking the hearts of the people in the church. It would take a brave and humble move by the church leadership, but it would definitely be a church rescue, done by the ultimate church expert – Jesus Christ.

  1. Ray – it’s a great idea. Let’s do it!

  2. I would suggest fellowship meetings of a nature similar to AA meetings. Almost any typical AA meeting naturally includes confession and testimony. It is not a bake sale or potluck or Bible study. Mostly it is about brokenness and the solution. I feel that small, tightlyknit congregations are vital to re-invigorate the church, as practiced in AA. Service to others is heavily emphasized, the primary purpose. We are to be of maximum service to others through a direct and loving relationship with God.

    Being “saved” and knowing Scripture and being seen as a true Christian often act to inhibit honest relationships. Love is the whole purpose of truth. For that love to come forth requires entering into actual relationships with people. For the meetings to work, they must be a “come as you are” gathering. For the meetings to work, there are no experts or quick scripture-fixing. For the meetings to work, they must be heart to heart communication, not doctrine and teaching. Christ gave us a spirit of action, not a system of belief.

  3. Did you sell this idea to NatGeo? They’re doing this exact idea, even with the name “Church Rescue,” and it premiers Nov. 11th, 2013.

  4. “Premieres” I meant to say.

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