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(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
Five Ways to move Traditional Church toward Missional
Many churches want to become more missional, but are still operating under the mindset of “If we build it they will come.” To move toward missional, churches must develop a mindset that asks, “What are they doing which we can join?” No longer can we call people to come to us; we must take the initiative and go to them.
Here are five suggestions for making this happen in your own community:
1. Service Sunday
It is not enough to preach and teach about meeting the needs of the community. The congregation needs leadership by example. And while a community service project on Thursday night or Saturday morning is a tiny step in the right direction, all churches know from experience that few people turn out to such events.
Church leaders can show they mean business about community service by actually leading their congregation into the community on a Sunday morning when they would usually be in the “church service.”
(See here for a church that is actually doing this: http://www.alanknox.net/2011/04/this-church-is-meeting-for-a-real-church-service/ )
2. Move out of the Building
Sometimes a pastor or church leader can raise awareness and develop relationships within the community simply by moving the Bible studies, board meetings, and prayer groups out of the church building, and into the community. Not into someone’s home, but to a coffee shop, restaurant, beach, park, or even a bar.
If you pick a place, and keep going back week after week, month after month, blessing the business by being good customers, or the location by not being rude or loud and leaving the place clean, relationships will be developed and your own members will begin to see the needs in the community. This recognition of needs helps the church move into the next three suggestions.
3. Open up your building to “sinners”
Lots of churches have policies that restrict the use of the building to “nice religious folks only.” It is never stated this bluntly, but the policy usually states that any outside group wishing to use the building must agree to no drinking, swearing, or smoking on the premises, no loud music, no dancing, and a variety of other things. In other words, our “Building Use Policy” restricts the use of the building for religious people and religious purposes only.
If Jesus was known as the friend of sinners, tax gatherers, prostitutes, gluttons, and drunkards, the church should also be known for such things, including the use of our buildings. If your building policy doesn’t allow for such people to meet in the building, then maybe you should revisit the policy.
If we follow Jesus in the use of our buildings, there is no greater compliment we could receive than to hear a religious person criticize us for allowing drunkards and sinners to meet in our building.
4. Answer your own prayers
Prayer meetings are great, but all too often, we use prayer as a substitute for obedience. Christians would much rather pray for their neighbor than actually go serve them, and then we wonder why God doesn’t answer our prayers for them more often.
Could it be that as God listens to our prayers for the drug addicts down the street, and the corruption in the city council, and the neighbor who has a daughter that got pregnant out of wedlock, that He is saying, “I would love to answer that prayer request..through you. What are you going to do about it?”
Every prayer meeting should be concluded with action steps on what the church is going to do to answer their own prayer requests. A church could even cancel every other prayer meeting so that they could go be an answer to the prayer requests from the previous week.
5. Join Community Events
Many churches love to do community service, but on their own terms, and in their own way, and from their own building, and in a way that allows them to hand out their own literature and Gospel tracts. Sometimes this is effective, but most often it is not. It uses a lot of time, energy, and resources.
A better approach might be to let the city or town do most of the planning and preparing, and then simply join them in what they are doing. Sure, you won’t be able to pass out tracts, but you will still be connecting with people in the city and the town in a real and tangible way, which is better in the long run.
So rather than host a children’s carnival on your own property, go join the city’s kids carnival in the city park. Rather than go clean up the baseball field on your own, join the city when they do it. When the city has their July 4th celebration, offer to provide clean-up crews. There are so many things the city is doing, and the church can make their presence known by getting involved.
When it comes to following Jesus into the community, there is no telling where He might take you. Have you and your church been led into some strange and unusual places? Have you tried any of the suggestions above? If so, let us know in the comment section below.