Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Great Churches Remove Barriers

In my last post, Great Companies Remove Barriers, I used Apple as an example of a company that has made a concerted effort to change its culture. Whereas Apple was once a very inward-facing company, primarily focused on preaching to the converted, it now builds technology and marketing with the goal of convincing the unconvinced. A number of the comments I received show that Apple still has a long way to go, and obviously no organization is perfect, but Apple is clearly heading in the right direction.

How does this apply to the local church?

An effective local church will approach ministry in the same way. Since its inception 15 years ago, Fellowship Church has been relentless in removing any barrier that would lie between the unconvinced and their opportunity to experience church. As I have discussed previously, these efforts are exclusively about methodology, not theology.

Barrier > I don't know what to do or where to go.

Solution > Our goal is to make every moment of a person's visit as easy as possible. From a parking lot full of parkers to greeters throughout the buildings, from friendly ushers to great signage, we never want someone to feel out of place. The services and bulletins are free of inside references that would exclude visitors. For more details, read Terry Storch's great post on Fellowship's approach to customer service.

Barrier > I can't relate to pews and stained glass.

Solution > The building and campus is warm and inviting, but more akin to a first-class corporate campus than traditional church. The worship center is very similar to a movie theater or concert hall. Above all else, the environment is completely familiar to those who visit, whether they have ever stepped inside a church.

Barrier > The music and sermons don't connect with my every day life.

Solution > Our music, presentation and message all connect with current culture. We have no hesitation to perform non-Christian music if it serves a purpose. The cameras, lighting, sound and stage design is concert quality or better. And each of Ed's messages is designed to reach people where they are and emphasizes real-life application.

Barrier > Every service is the same.

Solution > Not at Fellowship. I have been on staff for more than four years and I still have no idea what to expect when I walk into the worship center on the weekend. Once a service becomes predictable, people begin to tune it out. When someone misses a weekend, there is no sense of missing anything. We make every effort to prevent that from happening.

Just in the past four weeks, we have strategically addressed some of the most challenging barriers that stand in the way.

Barrier > I just have no interest in stepping inside of a church.

Solution > What about an arena? What if we held our Christmas Eve services on neutral ground? Would you consider coming to a basketball stadium for a community-wide service? Thousands did.

How about a school? Visit our new Uptown Campus in Dallas and you'll find yourself in the completely familiar surroundings of a local high school.

Barrier > I'm uncomfortable inviting others to church.

Solution > Yes, barriers exist even for the people who have already stepped over the line. There is much to be discussed here (volunteering, giving, growing, leadership), but here I will focus on invitations. For large events (Christmas, Easter) or a new series, we include invitation cards in every bulletin that can be given to a neighbor or co-worker in a very low-pressure way. These invitations include a map, service times, series information, web address, and phone number.

For those more comfortable with the web, we even offer e-invites on our website for every series. Simply type in a person's email address and they receive a email invitation with all the details, matching the look and feel of the current series.

Barrier > The church is too far away.

Solution > We hear this often. The Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex encompasses millions of people and a mammoth area. Though Fellowship Church Grapevine is located in the center, that still leaves thousands of people who must drive 30 or more minutes to visit.

So, last weekend we opened two satellite campuses that greatly expand the reach of Fellowship. Located in the suburb of Plano and Uptown Dallas, these locations are convenient to thousands of people who previously could not attend easily. Some of these people were able to make the drive once a week, but could not get plugged-in to the daily life of the church due to the distance. Now, there is a church right in their neighborhood, where they can serve, attend, and help build a brand new community.

And, finally, the most challenging barrier for any large church.

Barrier > The church is too big.

Solution > At this point, the temptation for any church is to grow satisfied and complacent. Aren't we big enough? Do we really need to reach more people? If the church has grown to this size, why not just turn inward and focus on the people who are already here? Five services? Are you kidding?

At Fellowship, there is an unrelenting drive to push through this all-too-human instinct. Our calling is to reach the lost and nowhere in scripture is pressing the pause button discussed.

We have always been focused on growing smaller as we grow larger, through our small groups and through the numerous efforts Terry discusses. These two brand-new campuses, however, are a whole new opportunity to get people plugged-in to church who are simply not comfortable in a larger setting.

I attended the opening of Fellowship Church Plano and was blown-away to see the same level of excellence as in Grapevine, but in a smaller, more intimate environment. It truly is the best of both worlds.

Once a person has taken that step and visited, we must stop out of the way and allow God and the Holy Spirit to speak to their heart. The next step is completely up to them. We only hope to play a role in creating environments where life-changing moments can occur.

I what to be clear that the incredible growth of Fellowship Church and the life-change that has occurred is entirely a God thing. He has blessed this church immensely and our prayer is that we never stand in the way of His work.

And no matter what steps we have taken, there is always more to do. There are still thousands of people surrounding each of our campus who have no interest in trying church. There are still barriers standing in their way. Our job is to remove them.