I know I probably shouldn’t, but I generally find Christian leadership conferences incredibly depressing. Don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of good principles that are espoused (even if I can see them more easily being applied in the business world than in a church). The difficulty for me is there always seems to be this underlying assumption that if we can find the right formula—if we can put the right elements together and give people the right experience—we’ll see more people come to Christ as a result.
This is why, if you pay attention, you’ll notice a pattern in the music at a lot of churches. It usually starts with something that gets people pumped up and excited (and usually inviting God’s presence among us). Keep the passion going with another fast-paced song, one that says we’ll live for him (often by saying, “We’ll live for you” or “it’s all about you”). Cool it down a notch after that with a power ballad-esque number and give everyone a chance to be reflective for a minute, throw in a verse or two of a classic hymn, and then move into the sermon. Later, as the sermon comes to its conclusion and the band takes its position, start the spirit keys, pray, and sing the final song, usually another uptempo one. And there you have it: an engaged, thriving, worshipping church.
Except you might not.
See there’s a problem with trying to figure out the secret formula—and that is, there’s no secret formula. You’re not going to be more likely to win someone to Christ if you do a teaching series based on The Force Awakens or a popular book series, any more than you’d be by talking about being gospel-centered, or missional, vertical, or whatever buzzword was cool before that one. You only win people to Christ by sharing Christ. And as Spurgeon wisely wrote, “To endeavour to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or oratorical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music.”
The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emergency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else. Rely implicitly upon the old, old gospel. You need no other nets when you fish for men; those your Master has given you are strong enough for the great fishes, and have meshes fine enough to hold the little ones. Spread these nets and no others, and you need not fear the fulfilment of His Word, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Adapted from The Soul-Winner.)
That right there, friends, is the secret. If you want to reach people, preach Christ, and nothing else.