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"Our Answer is God. God's answer is us. Through partnership we make our world better."
- Dorian Scott Cole

Transformation Series Article

Where Is Our Focus?

Copyright © 2009 Dorian S. Cole


Churches overall are seeing declining membership. Everyone would like to point fingers at a single cause. But there are plenty of things to point at. This articles focuses on where our focus is. Whether a fundamentalist church that focuses on salvation evangelism, or a mainstream church that focuses on social justice, there are similar problems. A companion piece to this article is a handout for those who want to present the church: Presenting the church to others.

Young adults who are raised in the church leave it at about a rate of 60%. It isn't because they lose interest in religion or spirituality - they don't. Part of it is natural as they search for meaning and purpose in their lives. We all have to explore, expand, and grow. Part of it is probably that they move and find other priorities, and another part is that they don't really understand the value of a church as a community. But whatever the reasons, they don't come back, and then their children never come. Others outside the church are not attracted to the church. The younger generation just doesn't "buy it."

"Buy it" is a metaphor, but the phrase aptly states that something has no value and is not worth an investment of time, energy, or money. I have a strong background in the business world. I never wanted to be any part of business - I was happily content being in a non-competitive world of providing essential services. Well, even today those services are competitive. Anyway, characteristically when I became part of the business world, I delved in deeply to understand it and make it work. Today I have my own communications business.

Competition isn't comfortable. It makes you search for answers and innovate. And a church is not a business, after all - it isn't as if we are "selling" something. As you can see, I'm cautious about metaphors. The have their limit. But in the business world, as in the church world, for something to appeal to the market, or our community, people have to see value in it.

One of the problems is focus. I have seen this all through my church life. We come to church to get refreshed, or even entertained, and then we go about the business of living. The church focuses most of its time and energy on the "worship services and Christian education." We tend to be an internally focused organization. We are focused on the comfortable aspect of serving our own needs. To some extent, we must.

Here is the problem seen widely in the business world. Sooner or later every business has to deal with this. Companies tend to get focused on making a product that they think is better, and will enhance their bottom line. Soon the entire organization gets driven like slaves to produce that product in a way that is competitive. It doesn't work, and is a major problem of focus.

For example, Boeing, the world's largest maker of airplanes with 60% of the market, in the late 1990s had become that kind of company. Their product quality began to slip because of their misplaced focus and haste, and consumers lost confidence in them. They almost lost the company.

After looking at themselves, Boeing made several changes. The most important was, they began talking to their customers about what they actually needed, and the result was the 787 passenger plane. It was more fuel efficient. It carried the amount of passengers for most of the routes the airline companies flew. It required less maintenance. All were features the airlines asked for. Boeing beat their competition who was moving toward larger planes that the airlines didn't want. So instead of pushing for a supersonic passenger plane, or a larger jumbo jet - all things that make sense to internal company thinking and needs, they built what the people wanted and as a result kept the company regained market share.

I have seen this story more than once, from one of the oldest and largest companies in the US that I once worked for, to famous stories of some of the entrepreneurs trying to get off the ground. It is fundamental to business. 

I think that in the back of our minds is that we present "the Bible" to people. It is "God's Word." Therefore, we know what people need to hear and what services they need. It is a very authoritarian approach that says, "We know what is best for you," and often doesn't look beyond that. We fear that catering to people's needs is pandering to less worthy pursuits. We look around shrug and say we are doing God's work, and doing it the same way we have always done it. It becomes a mystery why it doesn't work and we keep looking internally for answers that aren't there, and can't be there.

We are looking for answers in the wrong place. A company can look internally forever and never find an answer to why their product doesn't compete. Companies can try thousands of variations on their products and will probably go out of business before finding the one that is key to the market. But ask the people what they want, and you zero in on the exact thing that brings success. Success in serving needs means success in business.

It is the same in a church. If we begin to talk to our communities and young adult congregations about what their needs are, we can find the right answers.

My study of God tells me that God draws us to Himself first, and then redirects our attention toward others - especially how we treat others. Instead of a one-stop, "worship me," it is a transforming experience that God leads us into toward others that becomes an attitude of "service." We need to approach others with an attitude of service. "How can we best serve you?" Christ met people where they were, not where he wanted them to be, and served them. Instead of measuring church success in terms of how many people we get in the door, we need to measure church success in terms of how well we are serving our communities. If we are making the right airplane, we will deliver a lot of 787s.

If you need to survey your community about needs and worship preferences through focus groups or directly, I can provide this kind of material, but it isn't free. Contact me: Author, Webmaster, publisher

Yours in Christ,

- Dorian Scott Cole

Author's Books

The Prophetic Pattern: Discussion Guide for Ancient and Modern Prophecy

Are we all going to die on Friday, December 21, 2012? My new book critically examines that question. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.

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On Friday, December 21, 2012, are we all going to die? Are there really signposts to the world's end? Does modern prophecy really merge with ancient prophecy? Will all of the Christians suddenly disappear? The answers may surprise you.

Millions of Americans are anxiously waiting for December 21, 2012 to see if the world will end. Despite the fact that signs seem to be everywhere in all ancient and modern prophecy and even science, the major sign pointed to by both Daniel and Christ is overlooked by prophecy interpreters. And interpretation of modern prophecy overlooks intent. Like a scary movie, prophecy is great fun until it starts affecting people's lives.

This book explores how to distinguish the intent of various types of prophecies and oracles, both ancient and modern. The five chapters in this discussion guide are rich in information, providing one legitimate point of view, and are intended to encourage discussion and additional research. A ten meeting discussion group is the minimum recommended.

Subjects to explore include:

  • History, and the situations surrounding prophecy
  • Types of prophecy
  • Other interpretations of prophecy
  • Are faith and prophetic belief blind?
  • Societies that go bad - are they destroyed?
  • Social change - saving ourselves
  • The challenges of the 21st.Century

Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. He is a licensed minister with a mainline denomination with full time pastoral and counseling experience. His education in religion and psychology was through a state university (IU) followed by independent study. Other books and publications: Ontology of God, How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

Reading type: Mainstream, nonfiction.

Ontology of God: The voices of the ancients speak.

My recent book, Ontology of God, looks at what we can learn through the ages regarding the history of several aspects of religious development as affected by the ancient societies they were in, including law, mercy, and love. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.
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Echoing through time are the voices of ancient people telling us about God. From Mesopotamia and Egypt 5000 years ago, often from even earlier oral traditions, every civilization has been inspired to tell us about God. Their voices vary widely and even conflict. Is there a common message that they thought was so important that they had to pass it on? In this book, the ancient voices speak.

This study follows the thread of the basic religious concepts of law, mercy, and love that are prominent in many religions. Major religions around the world are investigated up to the launch of the Common Era when most religions had been developed, including religions that later developed independently such as the Mayan.

These are messages refined by the fire of experience through the ages. The repeated messages collectively bear the tests of validity.

This study also looks at the many methods we use to try to understand God and religious literature. Is the nature of God reflected in what he asks of us? The premise is that it is.

By understanding the nature of God, perhaps we can filter out the many competing voices that tell us that God stands for such things as the murder of innocents and destruction.

The very nature of religion is illuminated in the light of the voices from the ages. But is ancient religion a path that we have lost, or does history hammer out newer voices to bear the truth of new experience as people try to understand their relationship with God?

Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. Other books and publications: How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

Reading type: Mainstream Scholarly Specialist

Distribution notice:

You are welcome to make standard size quotations from this article with proper attribution (Dorian Scott Cole, One Spirit Resources Web site). This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole


One Spirit Resources is a production of TechGenie Media, LLC

Copyright © 2009 Dorian Scott Cole. Feedback and statistical corrections are welcome: Author, Webmaster, publisher.