Homeless Advocate Mark Horvath on Church Marketing

Homeless Advocate Mark Horvath on Church Marketing

November 9, 2010 by

Homeless advocate Mark Horvath has a little known history as a church marketer. He served as a marketing executive for a megachurch before slipping into unemployment and a crisis that forced him to launch the nonprofit InvisiblePeople.tv.

Horvath travels the country talking to homeless people, capturing their stories and posting the raw, unedited video online. He’s changing hearts and minds, and he’s giving the homeless a voice.

Today a new book comes out that was inspired by Horvath and benefits his work. It’s called Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness (Full disclosure: Yes, I edited it). It features the stories of 35 homeless people, a foreword by Trust Agent author Chris Brogan and reflections from two dozen experts including our own Brad Abare and guest blogger Scott Williams. And all proceeds support Horvath’s work with InvisiblePeople.tv.

We sat down with Mark Horvath and talked about his work, the book and church marketing.

You’ve done some pretty amazing things from social media to online video. What can churches learn from what you’ve done to reach people?

Mark Horvath: Right now we think an iPhone app is cool to reach people, but it’s really not going to change the world. We need to get our hands dirty and start caring for our neighbors. We need to forget all these crazy huge church productions and put our resources into having a serious impact on stuff like homelessness and human trafficking.

As long as we focus on Sunday morning and a talking head, we won’t have an impact on the world. We must stop pointing our finger at people and say you’re a sinner and start opening our arms and hugging people. We have to make helping hurting people a priority. We need to care for people without an agenda. We must start loving those who do not believe as we do.

Point blank honest, the very best church marketing is not a new billboard or a web page hyping a sermon series. It’s becoming a catalyst for real, positive change in your community. The day of churches being able to fill seats with gimmicks has long past. It’s time to wake up and use our resources as God would have us use them, and that is not spending more money on lights, screens, cameras or fancy shmancy lobby displays. Come on, people. Our church lobbies look like a swap meet selling Jesus junk and we wonder why new people are not coming to our church!

Outreach is not a marketing ploy to fill seats. Outreach should be a full-time investment in connecting people to support services. News flash: Your latest sermon is not going to put food in their fridge.

Forget random acts of kindness. We need deliberate acts of compassion.

What can churches do to better communicate their message to their communities?

Mark: The best way for a church to communicate to the community is to stop talking and start loving. I’m sick of going to churches where they talk about love, but there is little outward compassion, especially for nonmembers. (unless it’s the poor people in the trailer park down the street we “adopt” every six months to make ourselves feel better)

Remember this phrase: Attraction rather than promotion. It’s a principle from Alcoholics Anonymous. Create an environment that’s so cool and so loving that people want to come to you. Then you don’t have to beg people to visit.

Be so attractive that the people want to be there. You do that by being their neighbor and helping them. Especially in today’s world. In today’s social media world, we have a bullsh*t meter. You can’t say “Pastor’s going to preach a word,” and believe people will visit—people don’t need a word. They need their mortgage paid. They need food. They need jobs. Here’s the word: Shut up and start doing something tangible to help others.

Fill so many needs in the community—through actions, not words. Clothe people, feed people, love people. You could be the best preacher in the world, but who cares? You do, that’s it. We won’t change the world with preaching.

How can churches do homeless ministry better?

Mark: If churches want to do homeless ministry better they need to actually meet real needs. That starts with listening. Listen to your community. Listen to the homeless people themselves. You might not agree with your local politician, but every community has a homeless coalition. You should commit to go to those meetings and find out what people’s needs are. That’s the best place for the church. It might not be as sexy as going and feeding some homeless people a few times a month, but that’s how you have real, long-lasting impact. You become part of the whole community not just a Lone Ranger

The problem we have is the church needs to start measuring total results, instead of just hyping a few cool stories. Are we really getting people off the streets or are we just bringing somebody up on Sunday morning to make everybody feel good?

We look for individual testimonies and think we’re doing a good job, but the truth is if you look at everything we’ve done over time there weren’t quantifiable results.

The next pastor who says we go to the park and we’re friends with the homeless because they’re lonely, I’m going to slap them. You have to spend more than 15 minutes a week with them. You have to get dirty. You have to be with them.

In Louisiana I was out with a group and we met a homeless man who was dying from AIDS. They wanted to pray for the guy. They said it would comfort him. I said it’s only going to comfort you. He needs a doctor. If our family is in a car accident we’ll call 911. But if we see a hurting person we pray for them and say God will take care of them, but we don’t take any action ourselves. We use prayer as an excuse to not take action ourselves.

We can’t base our ministry on creating a couple of nice stories. We need to have real results, which is housing and jobs and health services.

You said this recession has shifted you from ministry as a job to ministry as a lifestyle. What do you mean by that?

Mark: The other night I was watching the online service of a church I used to work for. The pastor’s wife was asking everybody to pray over fliers for a new Saturday night service they were going to have. That it’s anointed of God, for God’s favor and all this magic Jesus stuff.

I was a marketing executive there. If the madness hadn’t affected my life, my focus would still be in church marketing. They were praying over fliers to hand out to people like there’s some special anointing when you touch the flier—it’s a gimmick. They’ve been desperate to fill seats and they’re trying desperate things. That was my life. Helping desperate people come up with new gimmicks to trick people into church. If I still stayed at that church, I wouldn’t have been able to be real. It was a toxic work environment with closed communication to protect the king. Sadly, although there are many great churches, there are far more that are lost like this one.

Today my whole focus is what I believe Jesus actually taught, putting myself in the backseat, second to strangers I don’t even know. I was taught wrongly that God is this warm fuzzy feeling. When I feel God, it’s when it’s late at night and I’ve already helped two to three homeless families and I want to go home and I’m hungry and tired. And I get a call to help another homeless family. And I don’t want to, but I do it anyway. I feel God when I discipline myself to give up whatever comfort I wanted to help someone who is more disadvantaged than me. To me that’s real ministry. That’s everything the Bible ever taught.

Oh my gosh, that was my life. It could still be my life. But here I am. I don’t have the same creature comforts I had when I was doing magic Jesus, but I can go to bed knowing there are formerly homeless people who are sleeping inside because I stopped talking and started making things happen.

In the book you say that as the world gets worse we need to get better. Do you think the church has stepped it up in response to the current economic meltdown?

Mark: No. I don’t. What’s happening in the recession is horrible, and we’re only seeing the beginning of it.

We have a silver tsunami coming that’s serious. All the baby boomers are at the retiring age and their 401Ks tanked and they have no health care. In 5-10 years this will be such a crisis. You’ll see more and more wheelchairs on street corners. It’s going to tax the social service system. You’ll see shelters that are designed for seniors.

As I look at all this, it’s bad. It’s worse than anybody wants to talk about. Well what an opportunity for the church. But a Christmas pageant with camels is not going to help a bunch of 60- to 70-year-old people who don’t have money for housing.

Pick up any Christian materials, walk into any Christian bookstore, watch any Christian TV and you can see that we’re still just talking to ourselves.

I really believe the church of tomorrow is going to be a Dream Center type church—housing hundreds of people, feeding hundreds of people. It’s not a perfect model, but there are no perfect models. But that’s why I call the Dream Center my church. They’re trying to get better while this economy gets worse.

We need to stop preaching Revelation and get outside the door. You can still have a Sunday morning service, but it can’t be the main focus.

Ed Young Jr. has a leadership series called Leadership Uncensored. One of the tapes is “It’s About the Weekend, Stupid.” I used to buy that hook line and sinker. That’s wrong, stupid. That’s how you do a business. It’s not how you take care of people. This is where the church doesn’t get it. The church isn’t building a better church. The money we’re spending to be relevant is astronomical. All the things we chase—they’re all gimmicks.

I think the solution is the church, we just need to start loving more than ourselves. We only help other Christians or people we think we can convert. We don’t help people for the sake of helping people, which is what Jesus would do. I believe in the church, but it has to change. Clearly something is wrong, but we keep doing the same stuff.

If we put our priorities on people instead of a pastor on Sunday morning, we might be able to change this world.

I still believe in church, but church is not the answer. It’s what we do outside the building that is.

Thanks Mark. You can purchase a print copy of Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness from Amazon or buy a digital copy for the Kindle. You can also learn more about InvisiblePeople.tv and follow Mark on Twitter.

Photo by Kevin D. Hendricks
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Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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38 Responses to “Homeless Advocate Mark Horvath on Church Marketing”

  • Ryan Lenerz
    November 9, 2010

    I think many of Mark’s comments are spot on and very challenging to the existing church model in America. I do however, think he goes too far in his critique of the need for preaching. We can feed and cloth the entire world, but if that doesn’t lead people to a relationship with Christ because we never told them, then they are still bound for eternal punishment. As Piper says repeatedly, we need to care for their immediate needs while also caring for their eternal soul. Mark needs to keep doing all his exceptional work, but churches need to keep preaching the Gospel so people can hear about Jesus and his saving grace.

    • Mark Horvath
      November 9, 2010

      Thanks for the comment.

      Please know I am not saying do not preach, and please know I am not saying to stop making Christ a priority. What I am saying is to show Christ through real, tangible actions not just words.

      The reason I am alive today is not because of a sermon, it’s because a church offered me a place to rebuild my life.

      Our Christian bookstores are filled with preaching. Lots of preaching in books, CDs, DVDs and more! If preaching was all that why not send a bunch of preaching to the Middle East to fix things!

      The point is for a long long time the commercialized, evangelical church has put preaching as a priority to fix the world. Preaching alone has very little impact. Just look around to see the evidence. Skid Row for example. These is more God in the 50 square blocks of Skid Row than anywhere in this country, yet it’s still the biggest social disaster in the world. We (the church) keep preaching on street corners trying to save the “lost”. Just to eat homeless people have to sit through sermons. Most homeless people know the bible better than your sr pastor guaranteed. But their life does not change. Words alone, even from someone who graduated Bible College with honors, are not magic.

      We will have far more success building His church if we shut up and started loving unconditionally through our actions.

  • Anthony Rick
    November 9, 2010

    I’m always so inspired and very challenged by Mark. I had the privilege of getting to know him when I lived in LA, and because of him I certainly have a new outlook and a fresh call to the REAL LIVES that are overlooked daily.

  • Emilio Silvas
    November 9, 2010

    I would largely agree with Mark’s criticism of church life in America. We often do outreach to safe folks we know and love, but not to strangers in the street, Jesus’ favorite target for evangelism. However, I do not agree with some of his beliefs. Primarily, coming together on Sunday for church teaching/preaching is necessary. Whether it’s a large church or small group, we need to learn more about Jesus and his teaching. Otherwise, we go out half cocked with intent and create more harm. All Christians need basic understanding to get going and even more to keep moving. Learning about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit never ends. Second, I would be concerned about the desire to ignore his own needs when he “get[s] a call to help another homeless family. And I don’t want to, but I do it anyway.” Not one of us does the Lord’s work alone. Don’t ignore your own needs. God’s arm is not too short. Mark’s greatest opportunity to evangelize to American Christians is a reminder that Sunday is mostly for learning. The rest of the week is for doing.

    • Mark Horvath
      November 9, 2010

      I really like your comment

      “Sunday is mostly for learning. The rest of the week is for doing” is spot on

      Please know I support gathering of community for many reason. I am not saying Sunday church is bad. What I am saying is we (the church, most of us anyway) put more emphasis on a Sunday morning “production” than we do on helping people in our communities. We are off balance!

      You are also right that we need to take care of ourselves. If I’m in the gutter I can help no one. What I am saying is we have been taught wrong. We are taught God is this nice feeling of comfort. I am sure that works for many. For me, I feel God when I extend myself for another person’s comfort (often someone I don’t know). We are taught raising our hands to nice worship music feeling warm and fuzzy is the Holy Spirit. Really? Is the extension of God a selfish experience to make us feel better? I find the true extension of God comes into my life when I have nothing left in me to serve another person but “somehow” find the strength to help another stranger find food and shelter.

      Unfortunately, the commercialized church has not figured out a way to sell compassion.

      The main point in everything I’ve said above is that instead of trying to trick people into saying a sinners prayer we need to start being an answer to their prayers. If Christians started to make action a priority over talking we might be able to actually change the world.

  • Jonathan Blundell
    November 9, 2010

    Great insight from a great guy!

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Love this (and may need to steal it): “Forget random acts of kindness. We need deliberate acts of compassion.”

    Perhaps to sum it all up – “We need to stop going to Church and start being the Church.”

    Thanks again!

  • Donald Paz
    November 9, 2010

    Very powerful interview, Mark hit the nail on the coffin with this one. There’s so many quotes I wanna tweet from this, it’s just that good. I think pastors all over America should dedicate at least one Sunday sermon and preach Mark Horvath-style, just straight real talk…

  • Jay Loecken
    November 9, 2010


    I love your honest words and your heart for those in need! It is so refreshing to hear someone call it as they see it. I couldn’t agree more with you that we need to act on what we know. I personally believe that the love we show someone paves the way for a relationship and then that relationship paves the way for the Gospel. As a drunk, homeless man said to me under a bridge in Atlanta one day, “Show me what you say!” Faith without works is dead! If our faith and belief in God doesn’t translate to action it’s worthless.

    Our heart is for those in need as well. 2 1/2 years ago my wife and I, along with our four children sold our large home in Atlanta, bought an RV and we travel the country full-time inspiring, empowering and mobilizing people to put their faith in action. (www.passiontoaction.org)

    Thanks for what you do and for loving God by loving your neighbor. Thanks for obeying Isaiah where it says: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

    May God encourage you and sustain you in all that you do!


  • mystery dan
    November 9, 2010

    1. LOVE GOD.


    Your argument is made is those two statement made by Jesus, Mark.

    I am a student at a college right outside LA called Life Pacific College. Here students from all over the country come to train for ministry. We spend a lot of time studying the Bible and church philosophy. Much of what I learn about church philosophy is in flux because of the change in church culture. With the recession, churches are running out of money too, so the heavy production church cannot survive anymore. lol, that is why your old church is going as fare as praying over their fliers. I feel like we are moving away from a mega church model and we will have to move to more of a simple/house church model where the community is very missional. Do you feel like this simplification of church is helping the problem stated above in your article of christian’s selfishness or will it add to our ethnocentrism.

  • Will Keeler
    November 9, 2010

    We’re right with you, brother. My wife and I are ministers and we have been holding weekly “picnics in the park”; but with a twist. There are so many wonderful ministries that “feed” our friends’ bellies and while we do that, our calling is to establish relationships of trust and love; let them see by example the joy that only Christ could bring to our lives and to lead these folks through networking and resource building to the steps that will lead them out. We have found that offering hand-ups and not hand-outs is the key to success. May God continue to bless your ministry!

  • Diane Nilan
    November 10, 2010

    Amen, Brother Mark! Thanks for jarring the pulpit and the pews. Things are getting way worse for a whole lot of people on the “wrong” end of the economic rainbow. Hunger and homelessness are just the tip of the iceberg. Child care, health services, counseling, and more are huge needs. People can’t be self-sufficient without these basics. Faith communities could really help by offering these services. But we also must remember to challenge our government to change/enact policies to ease/end homelessness.

    • Mark Horvath
      November 10, 2010

      Diane, thanks for the comment

      what are you doing lurking around a church marketing website? I’m looking forward to connecting with you someday and maybe we’ll hit the road together on a project.

      for those that don’t know Diane kind of does what I do only more focused on homeless children and homeless youth. I urge everyone to learn more and support her work by visiting http://hearus.us

      she also brings up a good point that we need to be more active in high level activism. we elected a president few years back why not harness that power to change laws on homelessness. Only an executive order will give us huge change.

      forget all this church and state crap. we need to be involved with local, state and federal governments working to end social crisis in our country. No, I am not talking gay marriage or abortion – I am talking about the people in your neighborhood that don’t have enough to eat or adequate housing – we need to fight for them.

      in LA there is a faith based group that meets to fight homelessness but all they ever do is talk. there is no action ever. a pastor friend stopped going because of this. yesterday the United Way in Los Angeles launched a huge plan to help hurting people in the city. Businesses in LA have worked with nonprofits for the last 10 months to create this plan. But we are not there. Did the United Way approach the faith based community? you bet ya! very sad!

      I am very grateful that CMS allowed me to be real with you all. It validates there is real change coming. my hope is that this effects real change. we cannot keep doing the same old same old promoting a preacher and a building while people are literally dying all around us.

  • Ramond
    November 13, 2010

    Hey mark. Loved your article. So much so, I would love to possibly put it in a magazine I am apart of. If interested, e-mail me at ramond@justramond.com.

  • Sara
    November 14, 2010

    Mmmmm! I love this!

  • Julie Cruz
    November 28, 2010

    Mark – I have recently started following you and once again I say a big right on. My husband and I started a little non profit grass roots thing to feed the homeless. we have been doing this for about 2 years and now it’s time for more from us. Its one thing to bring food, but we are now at a point of trying to find ways of changing lives. Yes we are committed to God and church – but that means only one thing to me, to take what we are outside the walls and into the riverbed or wherever we go do our thing. We are newbies and have made some huge mistakes but we are 100% committed to the next step of being resources for people who are living under freeway overpasses and in the thicket along the riverbed. Most of the time i dont think I cant make a difference and I only have a small voice and how can i possibly change the city, county, state??? you encourage me to look for ways – I may stumble along the way but i will continue to search for ways to bring change.

    I will say that the church i go to rocks when it comes to taking ‘church’ outside of the sanctuary walls. the pastor and his wife are right there cooking and serving with us and a large portion of their church budget goes to help our homeless thing. He doesnt just talk out of his rear… he does it.

    Thanks again Mark! I always love following your totally right on stories. God’s peace as you are in the war.

    • Mark Horvath
      November 29, 2010

      thanks so much for your kind words. you can make a huge difference. keep fighting

  • John
    November 28, 2010

    Sounds like he is exploiting the homeless for his ownperson gain. His twitter is full of RTs of people praising him. Not much homeless stories. Do the homeless get a percentage of whats donated?

    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      November 29, 2010

      Wow John, then you clearly don’t know Mark and haven’t followed him for long.

    • Mark Horvath
      November 29, 2010

      Hi John

      interesting comment. I have a few twitter feeds. @hardlynormal is all my madness. I normally don’t RT people praising me. What I do RT is people who because of something I did went and took action to help homeless people. But @hardlynormal is anything and everything that comes out of my head. @invisiblepeople is the twitter feed that is homeless stories.

      as far as exploiting homeless nothing could be further from the truth. I am transparent in everything. Last year I grossed $14k total income. To put that in perspective my last year in ministry I grossed over $100k & gave $20k away to charity. $14k is also not enough money to really live on. If I was doing Invisiblepeople.tv for money I’d be pretty dumb because there are other and much more lucrative ways to make money. Right now for example I eat at a homeless shelter because I cannot afford my own food.

      A few things that make me different:

      I always put others first. The story is about homelessness not me. But the more I tried to hide my story the more you all started to talk about me. I actually put serious effort into making sure the homeless cause comes way before even my own personal needs

      I always promote other activists (I may be the only one who talks about the others in this space) and other homeless services that are doing good

      I actually work to get homeless people off the streets. What you see online is only a small part of what I do. Every single day I give my all to help homeless people. It’s often messy with little reward. But every time I what to quit I hear “if not you…who?” so I keep going.

      I could probably go back into the marketing world and get a nice cushy job, but InvisiblePeople.tv has changed me so much so I would not be happy. Doing what I do today is a conscious choice with many sacrifices.

      Behind the scenes my heart gets broken more than I let people know. The stories that wreck me the most rarely get tweeted. Every day my heart gets broken and often more than once. I am not saying that to get a pat on the back. But just to be real. This is not a calling – I am forced. Anytime you’d like to step up and take my place I’d be happy to train you or anyone else. The problem is no one is stepping up.

      I live my life online. Good, bad and the ugly I have decided to be transparent in everything. I worked for a church that did not allow open and honest communication. Everyone was scared to be real creating a toxic work environment. It was horrible. Transparency is now a way of life for me. What you see if what you get. I am not out to please anyone. I just do the best I can to help others.

      When CMS allowed me to be real in this post I figured I’d receive a mess of negative comments. Kind of shocked at all the positive feedback. Very encouraging because we (the church) needs real change and I see I am not alone in thinking that.

      Anyway, any time you’d like to come help me help homeless families you have an open invitation.

      On another note. It’s been getting cold in Los Angeles. Below 30 in some areas. Not one church in all of Los Angeles County (that I know of) has opened their doors for emergency shelter. That is so very sad. And John, that is what you should be complaining about – not my twitter feed

  • erik
    November 29, 2010

    interesting article. obviously passionate, a hint of social justice, a hint of reform, a dose of what the church is not, but there is something missing. a big something. you may have not said it. you might even do it. but its not in this article. what is it? any takers?

    • Raskolnikov
      November 30, 2010

      Nothing is missing except the ‘i’ in the ‘bullsh*t.’

      It’s perfect.

      • erik
        November 30, 2010

        not sure what you are trying to say with the bullsh*t reference. actually, i’m surprised that cms allowed the comment such as this without a hint of context or explanation of the expletive. care to expound raskolnikov?

        • Raskolnikov
          November 30, 2010

          It’s in the article. The editor redacted the naughty word by replacing the i with a *. That made that word incomplete, but had no effect on the perfection of the article.

      • travis
        November 30, 2010

        Well said Ras!! :)

  • Jon
    November 30, 2010

    Mark’s got me wrestling.

    Every time I say, “it’s cold in here” when I get up in the morning, I now stop and remember that it’s warmer than it would be if the gas had been turned off, or if I didn’t have windows, or if I were in a box.

    I’m an executive pastor in a church, responsible in part for spiritual spiritual formation. I teach a men’s Bible study, lead a small group, teach a Sunday school class. And for the past several months I’ve been wrestling with the practical implications of what we talk about. We talk about loving one another. What does that tangibly look like? We talk about washing feet. What does that actually look like?

    I’ve struggled for a long time with what Jesus asks us to do: go and make disciples, he says, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I commanded. He doesn’t say teach them everything I commanded. He says teach them to obey. And the only way I can teach someone to obey is to obey myself. And then show how that works.

    And that means when I read Matthew 25 about the hands on ministry, I gotta do it…or I’m not going to see Jesus. If I want to see Jesus, which I have sung from time to time, Jesus says in Matthew 25, that I gotta be looking for people who are hungry and thirsty and strangers and prisoners.

    There is a bit of either/or in the comments above. Either preach OR help. But it’s an AND. I’ve got to do both. Or neither reflects what Jesus told me to do.

    I sometimes am annoyed that God brought Mark and I within 5 feet of each other at a conference without having us meet. Part of the annoyance is that he’s now messing with my heart.

    Part of the annoyance is that I didn’t get to hug him.

    But I know that it would have been a “hi, how are you” hug then. Now it would be a “you are making me more honest” hug. And this one would be much tighter.

    • Mark Horvath
      December 1, 2010



      not only did you come up with the best post title ever “Mark Horvath is bugging me.” http://levite.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/mark-horvath-is-bugging-me/

      ya gotta wreck me here

      so glad you feel Matthew 25. Most just reading the words.

      Your comment here reminds me of what Jeff Lilley wrote in the Open Our Eyes book Kevin wrote. Very powerful story!

      I am sure we’ll connect soon but my hugs don’t even come close to Jeff Pulvers :)

  • Drew C David
    November 30, 2010

    “Stop talking and start loving…”

    This is the first time hearing about Mark’s work. I am challenged by the many pointed thoughts, but more than that – I feel released to act.

    Thanks for your willingness to serve, and your unashamed call for God’s people to respond.


    • Mark Horvath
      November 30, 2010

      Drew, thank you!

      “I feel released to act” – those five words made my day.

      I have lost several good friends because I voiced my views about today’s commercialized church. The social pressure Christians place on each other to always think the same and keep silent is huge. But being so dogmatic and closed is what’s killing us.

      It’s OK to complain about service at a restaurant, or at an electronic store, or at Starbucks, or about an elected official, or a sports team, but it’s never OK to talk truth about what’s wrong in the church – right? WRONG! That form of pressure to keep us silent is called ‘manipulation’, and for a long time pastors have used tactics like manipulation to maintain ultimate power. The church needs to change – the church must change, and we need to engage in open conversation about what’s good and what’s not so good.

      There is a revolution coming and it’s not going to come from behind the pulpit.

      When Sojourners ministries started they were kicked out of their own church. The pastor wasn’t comfortable with all the activism to help hurting people and asked them to leave.

      The people who are stuck in tradition will always slam any thinking that challenges the norm.

      I do love Jesus and I even believe in the church. If I didn’t I wouldn’t take the time to effect change. I do know I am off balance – but at least I am on the right side!

      • Drew C David
        December 3, 2010


        You are welcome. I understand how such a message could turn off people that once claimed the title “friend.” It isn’t easy to hear, but friends should be able to speak truth even when it hurts.

        I am a pastor, and I am going to pronounce it from the pulpit. More than that, my wife and I want to live it.

        Keep tipping the scales.

  • Christopher Fitz
    November 30, 2010

    Finding ways to minister to your community can be tough. What can one small church do?

    I live in a very small rural community, where it’s difficult to see the problems people are having. In a town of under 5,000 people, anonymity is hard to come by, so folks will hide their hunger, their poverty, their homelessness.

    Our several churches have a total Sunday attendance around 250 combined. That means precious few in any congregation who are active, involved, and possess the time and talent and passion to tackle ministry of any kind.

    However, the town of Greenwich, NY (where we say it phonetically), has some tremendous assets in our very proactive ecumenical and community groups. The Greenwich Interfaith Foundation serves the region in many ways, including:

    * Food For Kids – a free lunch program which picks up in the summer where school lunch leaves off. 100-120 kids are fed every weekday. No charge, no requirements, no questions.

    *Van Go – a free transportation program, taking elderly and infirm to doctors appointments, making a weekly run to the grocery store with those who have no transportation, serving a much broader area in similar fashion with our handicap-accessible bus. the VanGo transportation coordinator also manages the ride connections for our partnership with RSVP.

    *Immediate needs for assistance are met with a rapid response system which makes resources available without delay, without question.

    *Direct financial support for the food pantry.

    *Direct financial support of other community action groups.

    When folks come to town and get involved with Interfaith, they are usually blown away by how this little town comes together to serve the community. I am blown away when I hear of other town’s failed attempts at forming such a group.

    What can one small church do? Listen, there is not one church in town that could do a tenth, a hundredth of this ministry on their own. But we can do all this and more, when we work together. Get with it folks! Celebrate your differences. Recognize that Christ is the Way, your church is not “the only way.” And form a partnership with your neighbors. Then get to it.

    That is all.

    • Mark Horvath
      December 1, 2010

      Holy Guacamole Christopher


      “What can one small church do? Listen, there is not one church in town that could do a tenth, a hundredth of this ministry on their own. But we can do all this and more, when we work together.”

      is spot on.

      Here’s a short video from the Idea Camp last year with several great actions points for any community http://hardlynormal.com/blog/2009/11/27/idea-camp-pacific-northwest-video-edited/

      Look, if I can accomplish everything I’ve accomplished in a short amount of time with very limited resources imagine what your church, big or small, can do to impact the world.

      Thanks for your comment

  • ChooseyBeggar
    December 1, 2010

    There are several ppl doing what i wanted to do decades ago. Back then the technology wasn’t available. Mark is one of those ppl. He’s not doing as i would have done it, but he’s doing better than i probably would have. But heres the point. We all have different callings. Ive watched this plot unfold from both sides of the fence. And so far my impression is that both sides have a ways to go before they meet.

    Ive met with pastors, sat in on meetings, was a board token in ecumenical councils, and one thing i can tell you is that atheist raise a point when they say that churches are social clubs for ppl with self serving god delusions. I dont want to offend the religious or step on toes, but church ppl are just ppl. By and large theyre trying to assure their place in heaven while struggling with life on earth. All they know is what its like to be themselves, and all they see is in light of what they think they would be. Its normal. They often cant begin to imagine what its like to roam the streets sleepless, exhausted, hungry, freezing, sick, clothes rotting off, etc. Those who can, those who might remember something similar, are often hard pressed to maintain themselves. So they throw money at ppl who tell them not to give to street loonies, junkies, and drunks, but instead give to responsible organizations who might feed them twice a year, put them up for a week, or run a program thats run like a jail, if you can get in and maintain. Church ppl aren’t so aware of that last part. They just suppose some organizations get millions of dollars because they have the answers. Sorry, church ppl. IT AINT SO.

    Conversely, i see posts from homeless ppl trying to inspire ppl to be generous. The obvious self serving plattitudes and unverifiable (over the web) needs lead to an obvious conclusion. And the added moral high ground of demanding that God’s ppl put up or shut up lends to the perception that the homeless see those who have as stray cows to be milked by any means necessary.

    Compromise? There is no compromise possible. The homeless have too little to offer and most churches aren’t likely to change their ways any time soon. There is ONE THING that will make change for the better more likely: QUIT LISTENING TO HATERS. Theyre motivated by greed. The kind of greed that wants something for nothing worse than any 10 honest beggars youll ever fear to meet. (And yes, there are lots of honest beggars out there.) Haters can be found in pulpits, politics, on the radio, on tv. They’re very popular these days. They’re not obviously racial. So what are they? They are people who hate you because you’re not making them money. Do you see where this is going? I hope so. It’s not the rich, per se. Many of the rich are as overwhelmed and clueless as what’s left of some middle class church that plods through the latest sunday school lesson while dreaming about the next electronics sensation. How do we get them on board without making bad deals or acting like a collections agency?

  • Dawn Nicole Baldwin
    December 3, 2010

    “The very best church marketing is not a new billboard or a web page hyping a sermon series. It’s becoming a catalyst for real, positive change in your community.”

    “Outreach is not a marketing ploy to fill seats. Outreach should be a full-time investment in connecting people to support services.”

    “Forget random acts of kindness. We need deliberate acts of compassion.”

    If everyone subscribed to a little Horvath 101, there would be a lot less need for church consultants.

    Bravo, my friend :)

  • Joseph Huprich, Esq.
    December 11, 2010

    I represent 2 sons in the LA area who lost track of their homeless father in Nov 2001. They never heard from him again until receiving a letter 9 years later, in June 2010, that he had died and was the entire time under conservatorship control with LA county. Apparently, no one ever bothered to try to find the sons who were living and working and only 30 minutes away from him the whole time. If anyone has any similar experience to share and/or guidance on what we can do to stop this, please contact me at 626-797-0275. Thank you.

  • Sheila
    December 13, 2010

    Mark, I just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed your rant. As a fellow ranter, I hear the passion in your words and I am encouraged by your actions. About 3 years ago, the small church that I was a part of closed. Despite having an amazing vision, we drowned ourselves in trying to pull off a weekly Sunday service. After 10 years of struggling to maintain a Sunday service (and do everything else that we wanted to do), our financial situation blew and the church closed. I do believe that we did make a big difference in those 10 years but I also believe that if we had not fallen prey to the whole Sunday service is our priority, we might still be alive and well. Sadly we covered our failures in a supercilious pronouncement of God’s will. While I support the concept of gathering, I do not believe that this necessarily means that we need a “Sunday Service”. I’m also certain that what we “learn” very little at Sunday services because information is presented in the educational format that has the least chance of impacting people. I’m certainly not discounting the role of the Holy Spirit but “church” seems to be more of a obstacle to the work of the HS than a facilitator. I agree with so many of the comments above, and myself have been called negative and critical. My own belief is that the organization that will not listen to its critics is doomed.

    Your passion for the homeless is soul wrenching, and I thank you for a timely reminder of our purpose as the Church. It is my prayer that Christ followers will allow their souls, their passions to be wrenched in such a way that they take action for others, homeless or otherwise.

    • Mark Horvath
      December 17, 2010


      Thanks for the comment.

      “the organization that will not listen to its critics is doomed” is spot on


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