Posted By: Tim Mannin
ENTRY TWO in our writing series, EIGHTEEN, which is all about some of in's and out's of this church.
I’ve heard it so many times…”who is the target audience?” This question is used in business, advertising, book publishing, web design, and nearly everything else that involves people buying into what you are doing. One of the most amazing business stories I’ve ever read about is the rise and success of Southwest Airlines. Southwest entered the market of air travel when the likes of American Airlines, United Air, and Continental Airlines had a stranglehold on the industry in the United States. Southwest came in and created a new target audience. They didn’t concern themselves with the “executive platinum” flyers of American Airlines. They weren’t looking to attract flyers going from Los Angeles to New York City – they thought of something different.
The founders of Southwest believed they could convince people who travel from places like Oklahoma City to Houston to fly instead of drive. By creating convenient and inexpensive regional air options they turned 3-8 hour drives into 1-2 hour flight experiences. Effective regional air travel was essentially created by Southwest Airlines. They made 2-3 day business trips into 1 day trips. Pretty sweet deal…all because they had a new target audience. Their target audience wasn’t people who were already flying...it was people who were driving.
Begs the question…should our church have a target audience?
Maybe as a church we should create some unique niche or go after a particular type of person.
This is what many churches do. I’ve heard all sorts of answers to this target audience question. I’ve heard churches that say they are focused on young families, the next generation, young professionals, the artist community, white collar, blue collar, and even multicultural (yes…it’s possible to try too hard to be multicultural).
Here’s what I know…birds of a feather flock together. Although I certainly wish our human nature were different and we would seek to be surrounded with a variety of people, I can embrace this so called “law of nature.” It’s common for churches to have the natural tendency to gather people within similar demographics. Even when a church has the best and most inclusive intentions this can happen.
So what does OKC Community think about all of this? We believe that Jesus came to restore everyone. We believe he came for everyone. Most churches believe this, but what we will intentionally be is a church who does our very best to never target a specific type of person. We hope to grow and learn how to build natural relationships with all sorts of people – and we realize that will take some hard work and deep prayer.
The diversity of our city ranges widely through the prisms of race, economics, and social groups. We hope over the years our church is a reflection of our city. We actually hope that our church can trust the gospel enough to allow it to attract and serve the diverse people and needs of this city. This doesn’t happen by accident – we must purpose ourselves and pray often to be this sort of church.
So, I guess it’s fair to say that we don’t have a target audience…unless you count people.
Target audiences make sense in the world of commerce and things like music genres. Southwest Airlines brilliantly chose the right target audience for their business to succeed. Here’s the difference for us…the church is not a business. The church is the Church. Too often the Church falls for the notion that we must adopt successful practices of business aimed at success in the bottom line of dollars. The Church can and should learn from all sorts of things in this world such as, businesses, other religions, social and civic groups, culture, and government, but we must always maintain that our call as the church is for e v e r y o n e.
Our target and hope is that radical inclusivity becomes part of the OKC Community human nature.