Is Your Church Man-Centered or God-Centered?

By. Steve Lawson

The brief excerpt below is taken from a message Steve Lawson gave, on Romans 11:36, at the  2006 Pastor’s Conference: Overcoming the Eclipse of God.


I want to talk to you…about who the target audience is in your ministry….It’s who you are most trying to connect with and who you want to most win the approval of in your ministry. Everything in your church ministry revolves around suiting one’s target audience. And really today I think the crisis in ministry is very much a crisis of target audience.

There are certainly no lack of options  today, if you listen to what everyone is saying regarding who their target audience is. Some would say that our target audience is unchurched people–unsaved, unchurched people. And so we want to go and survey the community and find out what unconverted, unregenerate people want in a church and then adapt our entire ministry strategy to suiting their felt-needs, and so we adapt the music, we adapt the message, we provide church amenities to make them feel very much at home in the church. The only problem with that is, is that an unconverted person will never want what they truly need. They will only want what their felt-needs are, which are on the surface, but that is not their true need.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say, I never let my patients write the prescription, it is the doctor who writes the prescription.

Other people feel, “Well it’s our church members, that is our target audience.” For example, the charter members of the church. It’s their church. They founded the church, they have bank-rolled the church, and so everything needs to comply with what the charter members would want. The only problem with that is, it is not their church. It is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and so we must please Him.

Other people would say, well the target audience is the young people. After all, they’re the future of the church. Everything must be designed to reach young couples, and single adults. And so, in order to have young people and students, then we need hip-hop music, and we need skits, and drama, and we need casual attire, and we need short sermons, and it’s so hard for them to get here on Sundays so we’ll have a Saturday night service and pretend like the Lord’s Day is on Saturday. But the only problem is, is that for one thing culture is changing so rapidly it would be impossible to adapt something to a group of people that is constantly in change.

Many other potential target audiences could be cited: the upwardly mobile, the Baby Boomers, the Generation X’ers. And if that is your target audience then everything will be styled to win their approval.

And so we need to ask the very fundamental question, and the very foundational question: who’s approval do you most desire in ministry? Who do you desire to most have the approbation of?…And the only answer that we can give to that question, ultimately, is that it would be God Himself. Everything in the church must be for the glory of God. And that is what the Reformers called Soli Deo Gloria, for the glory of God alone. And so in the church the primary reason for the existence of the church is to unveil the glory of God upon the Earth. It is to uphold the glory of God upon the Earth. And so everything that we do must be to please Him. It must be to honor Him, and to glorify Him.

And so, God is our target audience. We must preach for His approval. We must worship in a way that is pleasing to Him, because we’re not worshiping one another, and we’re not worshiping the person sitting on our left, or on our right, and we’re not worshiping the person who is out in the community. We are worshiping almighty God who rules and reigns in the heavens. And so, therefore, the worship that I bring to Him must be intrinsically pleasing to Him. If I please God it doesn’t matter whom I displease, and if I displease God it doesn’t matter whom I please.