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I am not my target audience

October 30, 2007

If you are a church planter, repeat to yourself, “I am not my target audience. I am not my target audience. I am not my target audience.”

When someone moves to a new community, they generally survey the land before them. What are schools like? Where are the grocery stores? What are the crime statistics? How is this place changing? Is there recreation nearby? Do I like the neighborhoods? Do I like any houses in the area? Can I afford to live there? How we will make money?

Well, a church planter goes through a similar process but with it should come some healthy tension. The tension is between 1) where you feel comfortable and would like to live and 2) the mission area that God has built you for and called you to. Of course, for many church planters there is no tension here. They just plant in one area and live in another area. This is not an incarnational posture. I am quite certain that Jesus was comfortable in perfect unity in the Godhead when He came to earth being found in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:4-8)

God has given me a heart for all of Austin. Asking me to narrow it down to a street corner is where the tension has come. It is also where God has been calling me to lay down some of my preferences. Part of it is because of the season of life we are in. We have a two year old son and a daughter due in January. We are a young family and are naturally drawn to where other young families congregate. We have two favorite places in Central Austin: Amy’s Ice Cream on Burnet, south of 2222 and Central Market on Lamar & 40th. Both have a great patio and play area teeming with parents and their children. Everything in this area resonates with us, not just these two locations.

We also love South Austin. A lot. Other than public parks, there seems to be few places for young families. Take a look around and there are few families. And to be honest that is one of the reasons that our heart beats for this area. Even though there is a lot of ‘community’ to be had in this area, there is a lot of isolation and transition. This area needs some families that bring hope and newness of life. Only 35% of people in the area are married. Of households with children, 50% of them have two parents in the house, 38% are led by single mothers and 9% by single fathers. (I don’t know what happened to the other 3%) The national averages are 69%, 23% and 9%.(1) The area is very eclectic, intelligent and very diverse in every way but racially.

The thing that we must remember as church planters is “I am not my target audience.” I know, some planting experts will tell us that we will reach people like us. And I get that. But I am firmly convinced that the gospel is not just a gospel unto salvation through Jesus but also a gospel of reconciliation between men. We are called to reach across cultural, social barriers and preach the gospel. It is the gospel that takes two races and makes them one race, into one body of Christ. The gospel is freaking beautiful when it accomplishes this. It calls me to be more like Christ in laying down what I might otherwise prefer, and to reach across that which divides and to preach a gospel that unites us in Christ.

(PS for some of you church planters out there: I know, I know, I know that going to an area that fits who you are and your preferences is working in many areas. I don’t intend to malign you or the strategy. I just feel that it is wildly unnecessary. I love that the gospel is going forth in your communities.)

(1) Data from Percept First View Report for 78704

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 2, 2007 3:33 pm

    We’re praying for your process and God’s leading. Stay strong! dt

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