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“Rich People Apples” and Other Barriers to Church Involvement

My son was in town recently to attend a friend’s wedding. He’s a grad student in another state, and my wife and I love any chance we can get to do parent-y things again—like buy him food.


Making our way through the produce section at the supermarket, I picked up a bag of apples.

“Honeycrisps okay?” I asked him.

“Those are rich people apples,” he said.

His comment surprised me. “What are you talking about?”

“I can’t afford them. I always buy the cheap apples,” he told me.

My wife and I get Honeycrisps because they’re our favorite. Always crunchy, always juicy, always full of flavor. A consistently delicious apple, with the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. And you couldn’t find a better partner for peanut or almond butter.

But it hadn’t occurred to me that they were expensive. I’d never even thought to look at the price. So, I started checking the costs of Honeycrisps versus other apples, and, sure enough, they tend to sell for 4 to 5 times as much as the more common varieties such as Red Delicious or Granny Smith.

Turns out Honeycrisps are indeed a premium product. They take a lot of extra work to cultivate and harvest, and there aren’t many farmers who produce them (yet). Basic cost of production and supply and demand drive up the price, simple as that.

Yet the social dynamics aren’t so simple. My son—a typical 20-something on a budget—had categorized those apples as unattainable. (We now jokingly call them Moneycrisps.) Things he considers luxuries are things I take for granted.

 

And it got me thinking. What are the Rich People Apples of the church? What are the things to which we barely give a second thought…but represent barriers to the people within our churches’ reach?

 

A couple of “biggies” came to mind:

  • Sermons. If there’s one “given” for the standard church experience, it’s the Sunday morning monologue. Churches may offer a wide variety of experiences during the week, but the sermon is the centerpiece, the climax, the main course, the pièce de résistance.

But attending a lecture is near the bottom of the list of Things People Want to Do, down between laundry and sitting in traffic. I’m not referring to the people already in your pews; I’m talking about everyone else.

Of course, sermons aren’t a bad thing. Jesus preached sermons from time to time. But they are a kind of Rich People Apple—something church leaders take for granted but is not on most other people’s grocery lists of life.

  • Singing. Another “compulsory” church element is the musical worship time. Could you even call it a church service if there isn’t singing?

Yet it’s another Rich People Apple. We assume the essential-ness of praise songs, often unaware that corporate sing-a-longs are an obstacle for most people—especially men. Similar to the broke college student who would never consider buying expensive produce, people who don’t know the words or tunes and who lack confidence in their own voices would never consider singing in church.

Can you sell Honeycrisps to someone who’s perfectly happy with Red Delicious? In what ways have we made our churches a “premium product” that doesn’t have much to offer people who simply need Jesus in their lives? Are the polished sermons and worship concerts a kind of unattainable fruit that most people will never consider eating?

There will probably always be preaching and singing in churches. But what else might the future of the church offer to people who care about connecting with God and other followers of Jesus? You can join a dynamic group of other church leaders, along with a diverse panel of experts, at the next Future of the Church Summit in Loveland, Colorado. Click here for details.

 

Refresh YOUR Church: Pull your team together and talk about what might be your own church’s “Rich People Apples.” Discuss what you might do differently to connect with people who may think certain aspects of your church family and/or ministry might not be right for them.

One thought on ““Rich People Apples” and Other Barriers to Church Involvement

  1. Avatar

    I find your article interesting but I would challenge one part. And for full disclosure… I’m a preacher. But because I’m a preacher, I’ve thought a lot about this. I’ve often asked if this is the best use of our time when we gather. And it was my 24 years old that gave me a pretty significant insight. I asked about my 30-minute monologue and he replied: “What do you think a TED-Talk is, dad? And we (he and his friends) listen to those all the time? I just think you have to make sure they are worth listening to.” Our sermons are “moneycrisps” if what we are offering is out of reach or out of touch. To discern that reality means we have to be willing to listen, ruthlessly, to critique.

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