Plan and believe

Planning, strategy for the community, how does it fit with living out of faith?

Service, , , Kreuzkirche Leichlingen, more...

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Every now and then at work I have to deal with something called a "sales funnel" or also a "conversion funnel".

(show conversion-funnel-business.jpg, source: John Conde,

Let me explain this briefly. This is about customer acquisition and making this customer acquisition traceable and measurable.

Unfortunately, I have only found English graphics on this, but actually the English terms are common everywhere in this country.

Funnel" means "funnel" and "conversion" means "conversion".

Such a funnel has steps (this one has four) and they get narrower and narrower. This "conversion funnel" comes in various forms; in our company, for example, it has five stages. I hope this is not a trade secret that I'm giving away now ;-)

  1. Attention: Attention
  2. Interest: Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action

These four steps are the usual way to become a customer. Of course, there are always special cases, like getting a contract as a gift or an impulse buy, but most of the time, becoming a customer goes through such a funnel.

As an entrepreneur, you could take the position that yes, that's the way it is and that's it. Maybe you do a little more advertising to attract attention, but if it works, then that's good.

But now a lot of companies want to understand how this funnel works for them.

For example, you put an ad on the internet. Does someone click on it? And if he clicks on it and then comes to a page where there is a contact form or a telephone number: Are they interested enough to call or email? What happens after the contact? Is he so hooked that he wants the product? Does he then buy?

And a company has to understand this path. Of course, you have to offer good products and services, otherwise you probably don't have much of a future. But the customer also has to know that there is a company that has a product or service that helps him.

And then you evaluate: Are there banners that are not clicked on? Or is a mail form not user-friendly enough? Or is one clerk too unfriendly and another clerk sells much more under the same conditions.

Which path through the funnel often brings success and which does not?

And some paths can almost not be measured at all, e.g. when prospective customers jump at magazine and radio advertisements.

Conversion Funnel in the Acts of the Apostles

Now I would like to leave the purely business view and come to our church. I often find it exciting to draw comparisons, some of which fit and some of which do not.

We are not a company, we do not sell a product or a service. That is certainly a clear difference between a company and our congregation.

(Change picture to conversion-funnel-jesus.jpg)

But some aspects of this "conversion funnel" do fit. Let's look at the four stages again:

  1. Attention
  2. Interest: Interest
  3. Desire
  4. Action
We want people to have a desire for Jesus Christ and to act by deciding for Jesus.

It is also important to us that this is done honestly. For some companies it is not important whether the product or service really helps the customer; the main thing is that he buys and pays.

People who somehow start with Jesus but don't really mean it are gone in no time. This helps no one at all. Honestly deciding for Jesus of one's own free will is the only way to go.

We actually find a similar funnel in the Bible, in Acts 17:16-21; NL

16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was shocked by the many idols he saw everywhere in the city. 17 He went into the synagogue to talk to the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and also spoke daily in the marketplace to anyone who happened to be there. 18 He also conversed with some philosophers - Epicureans and Stoics. When he told them about Jesus and the resurrection, some of them said, "What strange ideas this babbler has." Others said, "He is spreading some strange religion." 19 Then they brought him before the council of philosophers. "Come and tell us more about this new religion," they said. 20 "You speak of many things we have never heard of, and we want to know what it is all about." 21 The Athenians, and also the strangers who were in Athens, spent most of their time listening to the latest ideas and talking about them.

Paul attracts attention by addressing people in the marketplace. Now, there was no television or internet back then, so when people had time, they spent it in the marketplace to hear news and meet other people.

It didn't stop at the attention, he also aroused initial interest. They take him before the council of philosophers where he gives a long speech and also talks about the resurrection and then something very interesting happens (v.32):

When they heard Paul talk about the resurrection of a man who had been dead, some laughed, but others said, "We'd like to hear more about that later."

It was the hobby or even the way of life of the Athenians, mainly to listen to new ideas, but here it hooked some, because they said, we want to hear more about it. It is no longer, tomorrow the next one will come with new ideas again, no, we want to hear more about what we have already heard about today. Here we already have a desire for more information about Jesus Christ.

33 With that Paul left the assembly, 34 but some joined him and found faith. Among them were Dionysius, a council member, a woman named Damaris and others.

People come to faith, they act, they decide for Jesus.

A great many became aware of Paul, not a few wanted to hear what he said, a part of them wanted to hear more and a part of them decided for Jesus.

Conversion Funnel in the Church

What can we learn from this for our church?

How do we create an interest and a desire for Jesus (and also our church) in the people of our city? Can we do it at all?

How do we create positive attention? Paul was certainly perceived controversially, but many took him seriously. He was knowledgeable about the philosophers of the day and knew what made the people he spoke to tick. He was certainly very authentic and came across as authentic.

This authenticity is an important point that applies to each of us. In 2 Corinthians 3:2,3; NL the Christians in the church at Corinth are compared to a letter that everyone can read and recognise.

This is not about performance, as it is with Jehovah's Witnesses, for example, who have to do a certain amount of door-to-door visiting.

If we really live with Jesus, this will change us positively and people will recognise this. Hopefully this will create positive attention. And maybe people will start a conversation about it.

But the Gospel itself also has to attract attention somehow. How do we do that? We used to distribute flyers (we called them tracts, but that sounds like tracting ;-)), we had a bookstall in town once a month. Is this still in keeping with the times? Does it attract attention and maybe even interest? That's the kind of question you have to ask yourself, because times are changing. Are there perhaps other activities that you can do in the city that make sense and fit in with today's marketplace?

We do a few things online. The service is streamed, now and then I write something on Facebook about it (but not much).

I find the streaming very positive, but it's not enough.

On the subject of attention, I can also think of an important difference between a congregation and a company. In a company, any charitable action is often used for advertising purposes: Do good and talk about it.

I think this is very inappropriate for a congregation and also for every Christian. So doing something diaconal as a congregation in order to attract attention cannot be right.

In the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, we find an important hint. There Jesus talks about the Last Judgement and an important characteristic of the good ones was that they did not even realise that they had done something good.

They had simply done the right thing out of their heart.

And as soon as calculation comes into play, something is wrong in the heart.

Strategy and faith

And there is one point I have not yet mentioned in the overall topic.

I would like to read Matthew 9:36-38; NL:

36 When he saw the many people, he felt deep compassion for them, because they had great sorrows and did not know whom to ask for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Therefore he said to his disciples, "The harvest is great, but there are not enough workers. 38 Pray to the Lord and ask him to send more workers to bring in the harvest."

Now this sounds less like strategy. Were the previous thoughts in this sermon all useless and only prayer is required?

Sometimes I find prayer and strategy a bit of a conflict, but it's not. In Acts, for example, the second missionary journey was planned by Paul so that they would visit all the newly planted churches again. This can already be seen as a strategy. Paul and his team also allowed themselves to be guided and changed their itinerary when God made it clear to them.

But we can take away the following points from the verses we have just read:

  1. There are many people, also in our city, who have worries and who do not know that they can ask Jesus Christ for help. Not much has changed in almost 2000 years, regardless of the culture.
  2. There are not enough of us to take the Gospel to the city. There are not enough people to do it. That was also true then as it is today.
  3. And that is why it is important to pray for people who will take the Gospel to the city.

And of course we have to take these points into account in any strategic consideration.

Jesus Christ must send people, call people, otherwise we can do nothing.

He must also open doors and guide and help with strategic planning. Everything depends on him.


Let me summarise.