- Courtesy of National Geographic
A newNational Geographic TV show that will air tonight will follow a trio of mission-minded entrepreneurs who will help struggling houses of worship across the nation to avoid bank foreclosure.
"We're selling the greatest product on the planet," Kevin "Rev Kev" Annas, the trio's business consultant with years of entrepreneurial experience, told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. He and his teammate emphasize the "conservative" trait of staying true to the scriptures and the "liberal" ability to reach out and empathize with specific groups of people.
Annas teamed up with sales and marketing specialist Anthony "Gladamere" Lockhart and pastoral counselor Jerry "Doc" Bentley to work on their local church five years ago. They spent three years developing a business plan, and then decided to take their ministry into the world. Two years ago, they transformed their nonprofit ministry into a business, and "Church Hoppers" was born.
"What we're able to do is help ministries find their identity," Bentley told CP. "That becomes their power," he emphasized. Churches that know themselves, their strengths, and their target audiences tend to succeed and preach God's word most effectively, the pastoral counselor said.
"We believe first that the mission of the church is to present the Gospel, to present Jesus," Bentley explained. But within that broad and universal Great Commission fits a wide diversity of special functions, he added. "There are churches that are family-oriented, and others that are more theatrical," but both are essential to the body of Christ.
"Tonight, you're going to find that New Hope Baptist Church put a lot of emphasis in praising the Lord," Bentley teased, "but another church may be a lot more ritualistic." He said that leaders tend to set the tone of the church – the identity – and members become attracted to that leading vision.
Annas emphasized the change churches must go through in order to succeed, comparing it to the suggestions of a coach, mentor, or counselor in someone's private life. "We are going into that ministry to identify what they are already doing well, we're asking them to narrow their focus and do it with excellence," the entrepreneur said.
The Church Hoppers also mentioned a common refrain among the faithful – how to attract the youth. Annas explained that many churches that say they want to attract young people actually want to reach older people. He cited North Carolina statistics that show a "very great amount of older people who are unchurched."
Bentley emphasized the importance of having a specific target audience. He mentioned Freedom Biker Church, a church whose story will air next Monday. While the church aims to attract bikers, many in its congregation don't fall into that category. "The reason for it's power is because they have a target," the pastoral counselor explained. "If you're not shooting at anything, you won't hit anything."
The Church Hoppers emphasized balance for churches – "a balance of internal focus as well as external focus," as Bentley phrased it. Annas approached this equilibrium from a business perspective: churches need to focus on their congregation – their customer base, as well as their leaders, staff, volunteers and members – the business team.
Annas challenged all Christians, and especially church leaders, "to really think about what their approach looks like to the outside world." He warned that even when Christians work their hardest to fulfill the Great Commission, they can come across as "very selfish, very inwardly focused, and not caring about what goes on outside the walls of our churches."
Bentley framed it in semi-political terms. "We are conservative in believing the absolute truth of the scriptures," he explained, but he encouraged Christians to "meet people where they are." Loving people who they are and connecting with them may seem "very liberal," but it also is "a lot like Jesus," Bentley concluded.