The objections centered around fairness, exclusivity, prejudice (or “respect of persons”) and the family nature of a congregation. The answers to these objections involved the examples of:
- Old Testament prophets – Who were almost always called by God to reach out to a particular group of people
- Jesus himself – Died for the whole world, but focused His three year ministry almost exclusively on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6)
- New Testament Apostles – Some of whom were clearly called to go to the Jews while Paul was chosen to go to the Gentiles
- Missionaries – Both foreign and domestic are normally sent out to reach particular demographic groups, such as Indian immigrants in London or Hispanic students on a college campus in the US
The decision to at least consider the possibility of a focus group led to a great discussion about eight different ways in which a team of leaders might identify their focus group:
- Turn to God in fervent, serious prayer. Whatever else we do to determine a focus group, prayer should precede and permeate the process. Having passionately prayed for God’s direction, should we then believe that the people group on our hearts was placed there by God?
- Does the Bible speak to the issue? Does Scripture encourage us to favor one group over another? This is dangerous ground, but it seems like we at least should consider the possibility. Should we be going to the “Jew first”? Should we be favoring the poor over the rich? (We know what God thinks about favoring the rich over the poor!)
- Who are we already growing with? Is there a demographic group that is already coming in our doors? Would it be feasible and practical to focus on this group which seems to be drawn to us?
- Who do we need to be balanced? Many make the argument that a church, as a local body of Christ, should have a variety of “members,” (body parts), as in I Corinthians 12. It should have young men, older men, older women and younger women, as in Titus two. It should have dear children, young men and fathers, as in I John two. Do we need to “go after” one of these groups to bring our imbalanced body back into balance?
- Who is moving into our neighborhood? If a particular demographic group is moving into the corner of the mission field served by our congregation, it stands to reason that God is bringing these people right to our door. What would we have to do to reach them?
- Is there a group which is not being reached? Is it possible that there are several evangelistic ministries in our area which are all targeting the same group, while simultaneously leaving a less desirable group untouched?
- Who are we equipped to reach? Our current congregation with its strengths, weaknesses and resources might make it ideally suited to reach one demographic niche while terribly unsuited to reach another. Will twenty-somethings actually set foot in a building that looks like ours? Will our older pastor be heard by a younger generation?
- How much are we willing to adapt ourselves? This has to be one of our key questions. An aging white congregation can reach younger, black newcomers to the neighborhood, with an extraordinary degree of love and adaptation. The Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 9) was willing to do anything except evil to reach lost people. Are we?
After much prayer and discussion the church under discussion decided that they needed to focus themselves on reaching younger people, at least temporarily, to correct their serious age imbalance. Short of deciding to become a church of twenty-somethings or young families, they felt that they at least needed to adapt themselves to younger people until they once again looked like an age-balanced family.