What does the ThighMaster and Church Growth have in common?

The other night I was watching an interesting documentary entitled, CNBC Originals: As Seen On TV. It was all about what they call “direct response infomercials.” You’ve seen them before, the Chia Pet, Ginsu Knives, weight loss programs, and the world-famous, if not embarrassing,ThighMaster hawked by former Three’s Company star, Suzanne Somers.

Now not so much with Snuggle, but particularly with the weight loss programs or exercise machines, the commercials are always filled with incredibly beautiful, ripped, slender people. And of course the idea is that if we use the product we can end up looking like them. But wait there’s more! In addition to these professional models, there typically are testimonials of normal people like you and I who used the product with great results. But wait there’s more! One thing all these type of commercials have in common is the small print. Somewhere, usually at the very bottom of the screen, you’ll notice the words “results are atypical.” This is how the manufacturers of these products protect themselves against lawsuits. If you complain to the company that you used their product but still don’t look like the models on their commercial they can say, “Well… It’s we said the results are atypical.”

This reminds me of the church growth conferences we go to or all the books we buy telling us how to grow our church. The speakers at these conferences and the writers of these books typically are those who have had great success in growing their church. And so they share with you how they did it, and the implication is that if you do what they did you’ll see what they saw. But wait there’s more! Their results are atypical. Most churches don’t grow and grow and grow. Most churches, at best, grow slowly, often times very slowly. Most churches grow to a certain size and then level off, shrink, maybe grow some more, stabilize, shrink, etc. These are the results that are typical.

Wouldn’t it be funny if behind the speaker at the conference the multimedia guy put up on the screen the words “results are atypical?” What if in part of the foreword to the book on how to grow your church there was a disclaimer “results are atypical?”

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