Church on Sale

Environments //

A few weeks ago, a local grocery store was going out of business.

To empty their shelves, they marked everything down to 50% off, enticing customers with ridiculously crazy deals.

So I checked it out.


The parking lot was full.

The place was packed.

Here’s what I learned from that crazy, interesting, and (mostly) enjoyable morning:

1. Investigating is Fun.

Soy milk.
Pumpkin butter.
Mint Honey Tea.
Nut bars with agave nectar.
Low-sodium, increased crunch dill pickles.

I never bought those before this shopping trip.
I never wanted to.
I didn’t even know that a few of them existed.
But somehow they ended up in my cart.


Because I was free to experiment. Marketing-types call this environment a “low barrier to entry.” Easy in. Easy out. It won’t cost you a lot to get in. And you won’t lose a whole lot if you want out.

Often, churches can be the exact opposite: Hard to get in. Hard to leave.

Visiting: People who visit your church are cynical. They’re increasingly wary that “church” might be a club with secret handshakes, code words, and initiation practices.

Leaving: Let’s me honest. There’s usually a fair amount of guilt that comes with leaving a church. It might be why some people never try it out in the first place.

Wouldn’t it be great if the children and youth in your church felt like your church was a place where they could experiment? Not just ask honest question about faith, but experiment with how they fit into the kingdom of God. How they’re supposed to live. How they’re wired to serve. How God can use them.

Honesty fosters experimentation. Experimentation kills cynicism.


2. Accessible Churches > Perfect Churches

I bought orange juice.
With pulp.
Don’t call me un-American or anything, but I hate pulp.

But I was bought it because is was on sale. I almost heard myself saying “Come on. You can live with pulp for 50% off…” The store didn’t have what I wanted. But it was okay.


Because it was accessible. I even bought two cartons.

There’s no such thing as “the perfect church,” “the perfect kids’ ministry,” or “the perfect youth ministry” anyway. Shoot for perfection and you’ll miss every time. Instead, create a ministry that people can easily become a part of.

You’ll never please everybody. Stop trying. Free yourself from that expectation. Let people know who you are (the label clearly said medium pulp), and let them try it out.


3. Serving Means Letting Go.

Here’s the oddest thing about the whole morning:
This was honestly one of the most enjoyable shopping experiences I’ve ever had. The cashiers were friendly. The floor staff (there were plenty) were available to answer questions. The management even stood near the front smiling and helping people out to their car.

I couldn’t believe it.

They’re closing!” I thought. “Why all the help?

Then it struck me: These people showed up to work with absolutely zero pressure to sell. They weren’t concerned about customer loyalty. They weren’t concerned about repeat business.

Freed from any obligation or self-interest, they just served people.

And they seemed to have a ball doing it.

What if you knew like this week was your last Sunday at church? What if you served with no strings attached? The metaphor breaks down eventually (after all, your church needs to be concerned about commitment and repeat “business”), but the experience raised the question for me.

(Incidentally, I had the thought that you might have: Maybe if the staff served like this every day, they wouldn’t be closing their doors… Food for thought.)


4. Everybody leaves. Eventually.

People who visit your church might end up going somewhere else.

Someone might get a taste of Jesus in a Sunday morning service, but end up at the church down the road.

Their kids might hear the gospel for the first time in your kids ministry, only to leave because they prefer a different kind of music.

They might get their first appreciation for bible study by hanging out with your youth group, but head over to a larger youth group that offers more amenities.

They might love you and leave you.

But here’s all you need to ask:
Are you okay with that?


FOOTNOTE: I can’t go back to that store again. They’ve officially closed. But my family now loves pumpkin butter. And I’m even developing a taste for pulp in my OJ.





About the Author

Brannon Marshall is Director of Global Church Engagement for Awana and serves on staff at Christ Community Church. He has served as a church planter and youth pastor, and is a frequent speaker on issues relating to church health. Brannon and his wife, Mandie, live in Elgin, IL, with their children: Joseph, Carston, and Hannah.