By Shannon Youell
A friend of mine, who would be considered a successful church planter, was lamenting recently on their success as new churches. He expressed that though they have great services with most age groups present, missional community groups, a vibrant youth and children’s ministry, and quite a few baptisms, the congregations are composed of all people who were already or previously churched. He concluded that most people who are not yet followers of Jesus don’t wake up on a Sunday morning and say to themselves, “I think I’ll go to church today.” Rarely happens.
From our “churched” perspective, these people under this pastor’s leadership are doing a great job of gathering believers together and have been intentionally discipling and training those who would engage that way. But the result is that the heart of their mission–to reach people in their neighbourhoods and communities to communicate the Good News of God with and for humanity–has been ineffective.
It is noteworthy that this pastor’s lament is from within the context of thriving churches. What about the growing number of churches that are struggling to continue keeping their doors open at all? Do communities of believers in a neighbourhood need to reimagine church? Reimagine how they may move and thrive as local missionaries to the cultural context of those they are to engage?
What things do we need to rethink and reframe to move into our particular local mission fields to be able to share the life giving way of Jesus and God’s kingdom Shalom?
What kinds of gatherings would an unchurched person perhaps venture to engage with? There is no one correct way to engage as local missionaries. And, though the Sunday gathering will always be a deep and meaningful rhythm of people of faith, how about gatherings where we can engage those who are not just showing up at our church facilities?
This next month or so, we want to explore some different expressions of gathered community, who, on mission together, are experimenting and exploring unique ways to connect with people who see no need to step inside a church building and if they do venture in, find no connection to that community’s practices.
Perhaps something will spark with you as you read these. Perhaps you already are practicing out-of-the-norm-church gatherings (can you share your stories with us please!). These are but four examples of groups who are making an impact by living and sharing the Good News of God-With-Us and for us where they are.
Over the next five weeks we will be sharing stories and videos from four churches that dared to reimagine church. These are not “models” to copy, but rather explorations of how joining God who dwells (faithful presence) in neighbourhoods by also being neighbourhood dwellers who live with and among the people of our neighbourhood and discern how to engage, connect and build relationships with them in their ways.