Funnel or Megaphone?

Photo Credit: Stig Nygaard via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Stig Nygaard via Compfight cc

Funnels and megaphones are essentially the same shape. The difference is in application. Most church systems-even the coolest and most progressive-operate like funnels. Churches plan outreach strategies, attractional services, or events designed as entry points to gather people from the masses. Maybe they even inspire church members to “invest and invite,” but the outcome can be the same. People are “poured” into the big end of the funnel and collected into the church’s systems. This is referred to as assimilation. It’s a noble enterprise. The intention is to gather people as the church and develop them within the system to become disciples of Christ. Too often, though, the means becomes the end. Rather than developing disciples, the church system ends up working simply to perpetuate the funnel. More people are collected, thus a need to build a bigger container, i.e., bigger buildings, bigger budgets, bigger systems, and, of course, bigger funnels. Some even go “multi-site” which can mean building more funnels into more containers with the same label. Some plant churches which can also mean building more funnels and containers. Even an off-campus small group ministry can operate like a collection of mini-funnels. The result is assimilation into the life and service of the institution known as church without necessarily making disciples of Jesus focused on his mission. The mission shifts from God’s mission to become the preservation of the funnel and container(s).

What if, on the other hand, the funnel was turned upside down? Then it becomes a megaphone. Funnels collect, megaphones distribute. They amplify. Instead of pouring people into an institution to collect and contain them, a system that looks like a megaphone pours people out into the world, thereby broadcasting the message of the Gospel. A megaphone system releases people from the container and teaches them to live for the sake of God’s glory among a people. In this kind of system people are discipled, not merely assimilated. Megaphone systems release people from the container, they don’t occupy them in the container.

Should we abandon the funnel altogether? Not necessarily. But we need to reconsider what we funnel people into. The people of God should gather for worship and discipleship in order to preserve doctrinal fidelity, care for each other, and encourage fellow believers toward love and good works (see Hebrews 10:23-25). The church should collect people but it should never contain them. It is all a matter of orientation. Instead of funneling people into an institution, pour people out from the institution back into a life of mission with other believers, thereby effectively equipping them as disciples who are intentional to live out the mission in their everyday lives. A megaphone system repositions the purpose of church and demonstrates to members that the focus should be on God’s mission to be ever expanding his kingdom outward.

So, what does your church do that looks like a funnel? How could you turn that funnel into a megaphone? Next week I will give some practical steps for church leaders and members to turn their funnels into megaphones.

P.S. You don’t have to wait for the system to change. As a disciple of Jesus, you have already been commissioned to go and make disciples. Maybe the megaphone mentality starts with you!

  • heathlloyd

    Man! You’ve been a tear as of late. Good stuff.

  • Brian Upshaw

    Thanks, Heath.