expanding the fan base

In a recent interview, essayist and author Chuck Klosterman said the fundamental problem with sports leagues is that they try to expand their fan base to people who do not like their sport. He said that when a sport attempts to market itself to those who don’t like the sport it alienates the people who are there to watch the games. He was speaking about the fact that NBA arenas have recently started playing music during the game. The game is not enough for some people, but why cater to those people?  

Then he made a wider application, “Anytime any product tries that, whether its basketball, music, film…or religion, when the idea becomes that for this to be successful we need to appeal to people who don’t really care, it gets worse.”

Any time a product seeks to appeal to people who don’t care, it gets worse. All of the bells and whistles we put on faith to try to convince people they should jump on board only degrades the message we have. If Jesus is not compelling enough for those who do not believe, all of our attempts as dressing up the message only create noise.

Donald Miller was able to express the problem of the consumer church mentality best when he says, “Did they have to talk about spirituality like it’s a vacuum cleaner…I wish they would just tell it to me straight rather than trying to sell me on everything.”


2 Responses to “expanding the fan base”

  1. Rebecca Horn says:

    1 Corinthians 9:19: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”

    I may have misunderstood, but it appears Paul is advocating it is necessary to “expand the fan base.” It is, in fact, essential that we adapt our style of teaching to the people we are trying to reach. I am a leader in Young Life and that is our very mission. We reach out to kids who do not care about Jesus or Church. For the most part, these kids would never enter a youth group; they are definitely outside of the fan base. We use “bells and whistles”, fun games and snacks, so that kids will come. We meet kids where they are and utilize what interests them in order to communicate the message of Christ. The reason Jesus is “not compelling enough for them” is because they have not seen Jesus but a secular misinformed view of Him. If we are still communicating the true message of the Word of God, then adding these “bells and whistles” in order to be understood by those outside the Christian fan base does not degrade the message but fulfills it. I, for one, will do as Paul and “become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.”

    • wes says:

      Rebecca –

      You make great points and I think what you say provides a nice balance to what I am saying. I will add this: there is no doubt Paul adapted his style. But once people rejected him, he did not go away and plan a new message that might be more appealing. He never did a sermon series on “Great Sex for You” or “Electric Sex” (by the way, those are real titles to real sermon series, I’m not just making it up). If that is the best we can do for people, I think we are missing the point of sharing the gospel. Paul did all he could to build bridges to the unbelieving world. That said, there were limits to how far he was willing to go. The main thing was still the main thing. If you look at the ministry of Jesus, He certainly did things to draw a crowd (miracles and healings). He knew His purpose was to preach the kingdom. What happened when He sensed the crowds were there for the wrong reason? He would say some hard things: Luke 14:25-30 – Hate your family or you cannot follow Me. John 6 – Drink My blood and eat My body or you have nothing to do with Me. These statements were meant to cut the crowd down in size. It worked because John 6:66 says, “From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.”
      Sometimes it is not about the quantity of the crowd, it is about the quality. We need to find a balance between drawing crowds and growing people.

      Hope God is blessing your work with YL.


Leave a Reply