'If building great churches was going to change the world, it would have happened by now.' The comment was slipped into a humourous and fast paced message designed to relax the largely pastoral crowd so that the speaker could make his very important point. His point? The key to the future for the Church is to see and think bigger than the church. I realize that sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but it's really not.
I believe in the Church. (The greek word is 'ecclessia' and means 'those who are called out.') I also believe in the local church. (A community of believers that fellowship together.) It's just that sometimes the local church can get it's priorities mixed up. I know this because I worked in the local church for 25 years. Pastors, leaders and 'the people' all contribute to our periodic loss of focus. We fall into the place where we forget that our greatest priority isn't us! It's easy to get focused on other things. We don't like the music. (I always do because my wife is the worship director at our church.) We don't like the preaching. We don't like the programs, we don't like... well you can fill in the blanks. The church isn't perfect because it's made up of imperfect people and imperfect leaders. All of that said, the local church is the best place to learn, grow, give and stay accountable.
Our greatest challenge is the belief that we are most likely to change the world through our weekend gatherings. We've got some great weekend gatherings, but I've learned something in the past 5 years. Here it is: There's some really great stuff that happens on Sunday morning that has nothing to do with church. Shocking I know...
I've also learned that some of the people who are most open to what the church has to offer have no interest in attending church because Sunday is their only down day or family day. A better church service isn't going to draw people from the ball park, soccer pitch, jogging trail, boat launch, ski hill or arena for Sunday morning church.
This leaves us with one of two choices. We either abandon the many who aren't going to darken our doors OR we release the church to be the Church outside of the church. I think that God does His best work outside the walls of the church, in fact I KNOW that He does. That's not to minimize what happens inside the church, it just means that there's a greater need outside the walls and He's committed to reaching people there. Here's the most outrageous part... He plans to do it without the 'professionals'. He wants to do it through you and people just like you.
Now I know that might sound a bit intimidating, but it's not that hard. It's really just about building relationships with people and letting your faith be a normal part of your everyday life. Listen for opportunities to commit to pray for them. Watch for ways to serve, support and just generally love your neighbour. It won't be long until the person you are reaching out to starts asking you questions and embarks on a journey of faith where you'll have a front row seat. Don't miss the opportunity! It's the adventure of a life time!