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Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Church Could Learn a Lot from Las Vegas

I spent three days in Las Vegas this past week. My wife had a conference to attend. I jogged early in the early mornings, walked around and read in the late afternoons. The first night I was too tired to do anything, the second my wife and I walked the strip and the last we went to a show. Through my observations I learned that Las Vegas is doing some things that the church has forgotten or never thought it had to do.  The church could learn a lot.

Las Vegas seemed very safe. The number of people and the presence of hotel security and police was evident wherever you went. This should not be surprising. Who would come to Las Vegas or any other place if they believed that it was dangerous? Only dangerous people will purposely come into dangerous places. Las Vegas would be vacant if it was unsafe.

The concern for safety extended beyond physical safety. The dealers at the tables seemed to be friendly and willing to teach anyone how to play a game. Their smiles were inviting. They didn't look down on those who didn't know what they were doing. (I say this from observation rather than participation.)

Unfortunately, most churches are not safe. I don't mean that there is physical danger in most churches but the people who walk the church halls are frequently people who have been to church all their lives. They are familiar with how things should go. Those who enter for the first time will find themselves unsettled by the way things are done. They are afraid of being embarrassed because they have done something wrong. The church people shake their heads and look down on the people who don't know what to do next. So, who will come back to church? People who are already like church people. Who will come back to Las Vegas? Just about anyone. It is a very safe, inviting place.

Las Vegas plans for people to come. Each morning the streets are cleaned. There is no trash, no unpainted places, no broken doors, and no burned out lights that isn't attended to quickly. They know that people are very likely to notice failure. They know that people are impressed with the care that they put into making their city look pretty. They know that people would much rather be in a place where the streets are clean than where they need attention.

The church often overlooks the trash in the parking lot, broken doors, unpainted walls and burned out lights because it is fine with the people who are already attending. In fact, these flaws can continue for months as long as the church exists only for those who are already coming. But the church is the only only organization that exists for the people who are not members. Las Vegas understands that they are not cleaning the streets for the residents but for the visitors. They want people to come back and they just don't want to come back to a dirty city.

Las Vegas has people aggressively passing out invitations to nightclubs or some other type of "girly" show places. I never received any of these invitation but saw the people passing them out and also saw that people had thrown them on the sidewalk. I didn't look closely at these "invitations" but I could tell by the pictures that it involved naked or nearly naked women. I knew that I didn't want any part of it and held my wife's hand as we walked past those handing out the invitations. They wouldn't hand it to us once they saw us holding hands. I suppose they know this method works or they wouldn't continue to hand these out each night.

Why isn't the church this aggressive in getting people to hand out invitations? Why aren't we giving them out to everyone who will take them? Why don't we realize that some people will not come and stop wasting our time on inviting them? It seems that the church could learn a lot about this method of invitation. The people in Las Vegas hand out invitations to tens of thousands of people each night with the hope of some coming to fill their nightclubs. Wouldn't the church have the same results if we passed out tens of thousands of invitations each week? I think so.

Las Vegas taught me a lot. I admire their determination in getting people to come and, then, come back. It is something the church could certainly learn too.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 (NIV)
3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4  who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

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