Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Being Good News Beyond the Church Building


I was driving home a bit early from our Sunday morning services (my wife was at a womens' retreat, so I had the kiddos myself for a Sunday. Single-parenting pastoring is a tough balance), and I noticed something peculiar:

People.

Riding bikes. Jogging. Walking on paths. Pushing strollers. Sitting at cafes, conversing over a cup of coffee. Active and alive and real.

Perhaps they had already been to a church service that morning? Maybe, but probably not. These weren't the sleep-in-on-Sundays types either. They seemed quite awake and engaged with whatever activity they were doing.

Ordinary people living ordinary life, with seemingly little knowledge or desire to join in the various church services occurring in nearby buildings.

How can the church be good news to the people in the neighbourhood nearest its building?

I know what the answer isn't: just get 'em in the building.

They don't need to be in the church building to experience the good news of Jesus. If they wanted to be in the church building more than they wanted to be riding a bike or drinking coffee or interacting with people, they would have chosen to do so. No, the Jesus-following people gathered in the building need to be with the people who need to know Jesus, right where they're at.

It's what Jesus did.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.

Sure, it'd be great to have people come into the church building in order to be loved and served and hear the gospel. I'm not anti-church buildings. But how can we be on mission with God, loving and serving and sharing the gospel outside of that building? You know, where the people are?

Here are three action steps to consider:

1. Pray. Sharing good news begins with asking the Lord for guidance and strength. Jesus looked out at the lost people of his city and said this:
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38 ESV)
He didn't say "come up with a strategic plan of action." Nor did he say "hire a pastor in order to work the harvest." It began with prayer and a willingness to be obedient to the Lord's voice. And if we're willing to be obedient, God will be faithful to move us to compassionate action.

2. See. Our high school students are going through Adam McLane and Jon Huckins' excellent curriculum, Good News in the Neighborhood. (Though it's "neighbourhood" up here in Canada. Contextualization, you know.) Part of the series involves a series of experiments to really begin to see the people around us in our community. These are the people we walk by all the time in our grocery stores, our schools, our community centres, our malls, our coffee shops. Here's a picture I snapped of the results of our latest experiment focusing on what's happening in our community:

The youth are learning to truly see, to be present to the people around them and view them as God does--with love and compassion and grace. Do we actually see the people living around us? Do we recognize that they have stories, hopes, dreams, fears, passions, and brokenness?

3. Act. Praying and seeing will ultimately lead to obedient action. This is likely an uncomfortable and unforeseen step of a faith--a newly formed friendship with that young adult we always see in the coffee shop; a desire to begin serving weekly in the nearby retirement facility; the passion for adoption through the foster care system; a Spirit-given compulsion to go up and ask a stranger if they need prayer.

The mustard seed of the kingdom of God can't stay planted in the confines of a church building. It needs to spread, growing and expanding so that the people around us living in lost and broken ways can experience healing, restoration, and the abundant life that Jesus offers.

How can you begin to pray, see, and act in your neighbourhood as a bearer of the good news?

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