Our target audience

by Maggie Chandler

We hear about the importance of determining our target audience. That is, who needs to hear our message? Is it the young or the old, men or women, adults or children, rich or poor, blue collar or white collar?

While I can understand the importance of demographics in advertising and marketing, I still can’t quite get my arms around something someone said to me several years ago. “Our church is going after upper middle class affluent families,” she said. “That’s the kind of people who best will fit into our congregation.”

Jesus Christ had a radically different target audience. In fact, He shared it publicly one day by reading from Isaiah 61:1: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto . . . ” Preach to whom?

There it was clear as day. His target audience consisted of the meek, the brokenhearted, the captives, prisoners, mourners, strangers and aliens. He promised them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” He spoke of building upon old wastes, raising up former desolation and repairing that which had been broken.

Shouldn’t that be our target audience as well? Don’t we need to include the poverty-stricken, the outcasts, the addicted and the dirty? Can’t we make room on our pew for just one more “sinner” like ourselves?

The church is not a museum for showcasing saints, but rather a hospital for healing sinners — the wounded, broken and defeated.
Someone said to Mother Teresa, who was holding a dirty, disease-ridden, malnourished child, “I wouldn’t do what you do for all the money in the world!”

“Neither would I,” she whispered. “Neither would I.”

If we would be like Jesus, our target audience would include the affluent, but it would also be broad enough to attract sinners, prostitutes and lepers, fishermen and tax collectors to the glory of God! Jesus came to the down-and-out. He came to lift heavy burdens and to set the captives free. He came to give some of us a second chance in life after we’ve pretty much blown it.

Surely our message to the world can be no less than that expressed by Lady Liberty in New York Harbor:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

The world still cries today, “What shall we do with the tired, the poor, the enslaved, the wretched and the homeless?”

The church, with the right target audience, will answer, “Send them to me!”