Why Don’t Churches Promote Other Churches? September 14, 2009

Why Don’t Churches Promote Other Churches?

The United Coalition of Reason is one of the groups responsible for putting up atheist billboards and bus ads across the country. It’s not really a group in and of itself. It’s main purpose is to promote local atheist groups in the area.

They want atheists to know there are other like-minded people out there and groups for them to join. Which group? It doesn’t matter. Whether you’re a Secular Jew or a Humanist or a capital-a Atheist is besides the point. But since we all don’t believe in God, we need to help each other out.

More importantly, if someone is looking for a group to join, maybe your group isn’t the best one for them. But maybe you can direct them to another group in the area.

This is something the Secular Coalition for America has done as well. Some donors may be unable to give money to SCA because it’s a 501(c)(4) lobbying group… but our staff directs those people to any of the 501(c)(3) member organizations.

It’s not a competition if we’re focused on the overall idea of getting people to support any non-theistic organization. When one group does well, we all benefit.

With that in mind, I’m surprised Christian churches don’t direct people to other churches more often. They seem so set on getting people to join their church that they lose sight of their ultimate goal of “winning people to Christ.”

But look at what this Chicago church does:

We understand that there’s no “one size fits all” church for everyone, so here’s a list of other churches in the city we’d encourage you to check out as you look for a church home. These are Gospel-centered churches that we love and support:

And look at this reaction from one Christian blogger:

Wow. That’s the coolest thing I’ve seen on a church website — a local church providing new folks with a list of other local churches to consider. (I’m not saying Park is the first or only church to do this — that really doesn’t matter — I’ve just never seen it before.) By telling me about other churches in the area, Park actually tells me a lot about itself as an organization.

The shock at seeing that is what I’m surprised about. You figure churches would’ve been doing this a long time ago.

Again, this isn’t about Christianity or which churches they’re promoting. It’s the very idea of supporting other people who share the big ideas with you even though they might differ in the details.

Why aren’t more churches doing this?

In the meantime, while they lag behind in supporting each other, atheists better take advantage of this interest in our ideas and support anyone who wants to donate or join a non-theistic group, even if it’s not the one we give to or belong to.

(via Church Marketing Sucks)

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  • Eric

    Er… seems kinda obvious. If someone’s going to a different church, they’re tithing to a different church. Churches may have started with the goal of spreading the gospel, but they’ve evolved into organizations with the goal of gathering money. (I’m sure they would argue that money is necessary to effectively spread the gospel.)

  • TXatheist

    ditto Eric…money/tithing.

  • Andrew Morgan

    To play Devil’s Advocate, two things come to mind:

    1) Obviously, not all Christian churches believe the same things. I think all religious belief is lunacy, but for those who believe that their interpretation is the only correct one, “winning people to Christ” might only be the goal viz-a-viz non-Christians. When in the context of people who are already Christian, it makes no sense for churches to help people find other Christian churches with different tenets, since those aren’t going to get you into heaven.

    2) Second, this seems like an uncomfortably roundabout way to make a point: using an example of something as evidence for its scarcity. I’d be more persuaded that churches actively do not refer members if there were official church policies that said as much.

    Okay, enough of that.

  • J. Allen

    If you send people to another church, you’re admitting that you’re worshiping incorrectly.

    Since religion is completely vague anyway, all churches often have is believing that they are right, lest they constantly worry that there are other acceptable ways to do things, and that sort of dissonance is not good for faith.

  • Some restaurants collect tip money and put it in a general kitty to evenly distribute among all the wait staff. Perhaps churches should do the same. All tithing collected into a general fund that is evenly distributed among all the churches in a region. I wonder how well that would go over. No, churches are vying for your money. Of course, if you can’t (or won’t) tithe, then they might be happy to direct you over to another church. Also, some churches may be “at capacity” and have no immediate plans for expansion. Then they could be gracious and recommend another one.

  • anonymouse


  • llewelly

    Why aren’t more churches doing this?

    What? Are you suggesting a religious person should allow the love of more than one god to come inside them?
    How do you think the Mormon Jesus would feel if he knew one of his parishioners was seeing another Jesus on the side?

  • Tom

    Good observation.

  • It is all about the money.

    As an ex-christian, I have been to only one church ever where they openly said that if you do not feel at home at their church, they will talk to you about how you want to worship, and help you find one that is a better fit. This was a very praise-and-worship focused, energetic, charismatic church, and they figured that more traditional people would not be comfortable there.

    But in general, it is not about leading people to what they believe is the truth. It is about numbers, power, influence, and money. I have come to doubt whether pastors and administrators at the megachurches are actually believers themselves.

  • Carlie

    When I was fully immersed in church life, I more often saw the opposite. Churches were very skittish about supporting anything that involved other churches, even multi-church activities (like concerts and the like), because they thought it was wrong and sinful to support anyone whose particular statement of faith and beliefs didn’t coincide exactly with their own.

    That said, it is strange that churches in the same convention don’t at least combine funds for ads, the way beef manufacturers do. “Methodists – it’s what’s for church!” ads or something of the like.

    (“Opposite” meaning the opposite of what’s being suggested – obviously it’s exactly in line with what Hemant said was actually happening)

  • Meister

    From my experience with the Southern Baptists, this would never happen on one of their websites. Their primary concern is their building fund! Thus the need for more money in the offering plate. And there is one Methodist church in my area that requires a tax return when you join so they can bill you for your “tithe”. So I don’t think this is going to become a new trend. At least in then area where I live.

  • Kurt

    If you send people to another church, you’re admitting that you’re worshiping incorrectly.

    Very well put.

    Reminds me of a joke from Emo Phillips on his E=MO^2 album (shamelessly copied here, apologies if it’s a repeat). Emo finds a guy on a bridge about to jump, and is trying to talk him out of it…
    He said, “I do believe in God.”
    I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
    He said, “A Christian.”
    I said, “Me too. Protestant or Catholic?”
    He said, “Protestant.”
    I said, “Me too! What franchise?”
    He says, “Baptist.”
    I said, “Me too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
    He says, “Northern Baptist.”
    I said, “Me too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
    He says, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
    I say, “Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist or Northern Conservative Reform Baptist?”
    He says, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist.”
    I say, “Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Eastern Region?”
    He says, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
    I say, “Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879 or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
    He says, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
    So I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over!
    The differences you understand the best that can be the most grating.

  • Alexis

    The Billy Graham Crusade would work with the local ministerium so that all local churches could participate and benefit from his traveling campaign. I suspect that earlier tent preachers such as Billy Sunday (inspiration for Elmer Gantry) also worked this way.

  • The North Texas Church of Freethought is a member organization of the DFWCoR, and we put out information and brochures for other DFWCoR groups at all our monthly services.

  • The only thing a church has to sell (to distinguish itself from others) is that it is the only way to salvation.
    If you encourage people to visit other churches you admit you don’t have that.
    If you don’t have that, who’s to say who does? if anyone?

  • Not to play Devil’s (God’s?) advocate, Hemant, but I think you said it yourself: United Coalition of Reason is not really an atheist group in and of itself, but its function is to advertise and help people find atheist groups. Same for SCA. They are umbrella groups with broader goals than individual, local atheist groups. These groups are not the equivalent of churches, but more like para-church organizations or organizing conventions. In the Christian world, there is more of a distinction between local churches and para-church groups than there is for their atheist counterparts, and there are plenty of para-church groups that help people find local churches.

  • “Methodists – it’s what’s for church!”

    Absolutely priceless.

    Anyhow, I agree it’s all about money and schisms. Once atheism gets to the point that the United Atheist Alliance, the Atheist Allied Front, and the Allied United Athiests all have their own temples and tax-free status, they will be hording members just like the churches.

  • DSimon

    Once atheism gets to the point that the United Atheist Alliance, the Atheist Allied Front, and the Allied United Athiests all have their own temples and tax-free status, they will be hording members just like the churches.

    I greatly look forward to seeing what atheist temples look like. I predict skateparks.

  • Jim

    Progressive not only gives you their rates, but ALSO THE RATES OF THEIR COMPETITORS!!

  • meatyphil

    Actually, the church that I recently left used to hold youth events with several other local churches. When we had visitors to the youth group, we would often invite them back as well as give them information about other churches that we felt were doctrinally sound.
    I think that the fact that they were so reasonable about most things is the reason it took me until I was 19 to realize that their fundamental beliefs were, in fact, unreasonable.

  • Well, actually, quite a lot of churches are doing this in Sydney. In fact, there is an advertising campaign at the moment that doesn’t specify the church, denomination, or anything, but just directs people to whatever is local. There is one event coming up locally where a whole bunch of local churches are just listed. And the local churches do this sort of thing every year at Christmas. Not sure why that guy was surprised, maybe they’re just more stick-to-yourself where he comes from.

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