A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about our upcoming transition to becoming a mobile church. This coming Sunday (March 7th), we will no longer be meeting in our existing facilities, and will start meeting at Hebron Christian Academy. In that earlier post, I mentioned a couple of ways this could help us become more missional (that is, more focused on the mission of God, which is to redeem a people back to Himself).
In this post, I’d like to expand that short list, and offer some additional thoughts on ways that our whole church can take advantage of this opportunity.
1. Be “sent people”
There are two primary strategies of being missional for a church: incarnational and attractional. Incarnational mission is when we seek to let God accomplish His mission through us where we live, work, and play. This strategy does not rely on the church building as a central means of gathering people to hear the gospel, but rather, intentionally looks for opportunities to inject the gospel into everyday life situations as we “go” through life.
We will no longer have a building as a “crutch”. Even if our former facilities were trailers, they were still there, and stood on that corner of Pine Road and Braselton Highway as a 24/7 advertisement that “we’re here”. The sign out front served as a reason why some of us didn’t reach out to our neighbors…..”they drive by the church and see our sign every day” (we would think), “if they need Christ, then they know where to find Him”.
Clearly that kind of attitude does not represent the heart of Christ, but regardless, that option is now off the table. If we’re going to reach our neighbors and the community with the gospel, it’s not going to be because of a sign or a building. It’s going to be because we engaged them relationally and shared the gospel with them.
Now is the perfect time for us to use this opportunity to start building the relationships that we’ve known needed to be built….to nurture those relationships that we’ve known needed to be nurtured…and to inject the gospel into those relationships we’ve known we should have injected it.
2. Invite people
Although our preferred method of missional living is incarnational (because you spend 166 hours away from the church and 2 hours at the church), we certainly can’t close the door on attractional opportunities. Attractional mission is when we utilize activities (i.e. the Sunday morning worship service) as a strategy to invite lost people so that they might be exposed to the gospel.
For the past 50 years in this country, this has been the primary means of evangelism. I don’t have room here to fully explain the ways this has been detrimental to the cause of Christ (except to say quite simply that it has allowed Christians to think that evangelism is something that happens at church, not in my neighborhood or workplace); however, despite that fact that we prefer to focus on incarnational strategies, we can’t through the proverbial baby out with the bath water.
God still uses the simple invitation to your friend to come with you to church, and what better time to invite someone than now? We’ve got more room now to accommodate new folks. We’ve got nice new comfy chairs for them to sit in (seriously, I’m told that’s a big deal when the preacher drones on for an hour!). We’re collectively thinking more missionally right now. This is the perfect opportunity for all of us to take advantage of the spiritual momentum God is allowing us to experience right now, and invite folks. Invite your neighbors (again), invite your friends, family, co-workers, barber, grocer, vet, chiropractor, barista, sushi chef, etc.
However, let’s do attractional mission incarnationally!
“Huh!? What does that mean?”
Since you asked…..that means that once you’ve invited someone, don’t then just disengage from their lives and expect the “church” to share the gospel with them, follow-up with them, pray with them, serve them, etc. Remember, you are the church, and specifically you are the manifestation of the church to your friend…as well as the representative of Christ to your friend. In short, they’re your friend….you share the gospel with them, you follow-up with them, you pray with them and serve them.
If you invited them, regardless of whether they actually come or not, that’s a gospel opportunity. The door is now open for you to talk about your relationship with God through Christ. Walk through that door….whether they ever take you up on your invitation to come to church or not!
Jus a few more briefly……
3. Clarify “church”
This is a great opportunity for you to clarify that the church is not a building, but it is a faith family…a body of people whom the Spirit has regenerated and whom have subsequently trusted in Christ for salvation. It has nothing to do with bricks and mortar.
This clarification will undoubtedly open doors of opportunity for you to proclaim the great truths of the gospel to those who ask you, “Why doesn’t your church have a building?”
4. Engage in service
We want everyone in our church to have a place of service inside the church and a place of mission outside the church. The latter is more important than the former; however, the former usually precedes the latter.
What I mean is that for folks who have never really engaged in service of any kind at church, the expectation to get out and serve the lost outside the church might be intimidating. For them, sometimes a good first step is to begin serving inside the church. Great! Set-up some chairs, put out some signs, make some coffee, hand out some bulletins. Start by serving somewhere regularly inside the church, then making the step to begin serving on mission outside the church is going to be a less daunting step.
5. Emphasize disciple-making
Our disciple-making strategy through small groups (we call them BASE Groups), has always been based in the homes in the community. We’ve simply not had much room to house classes in our facilities. Well, now we have no room to house classes at all. Wonderful opportunity! Now we can emphasize that “churches don’t make disciples, disciples make disciples”. Disciples and Disciple-makers are made when God’s people take God’s Word and proclaim them over-time and in the context of relational community. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish through BASE Groups, and now, without a building, we need to be living this out more than ever.
So, now the ball’s in your court. What will you do? How will you use this transition to meeting in a school as an opportunity to live missionally for Christ each day?