I recently had breakfast with Hunter, a young man who attends our church. We met at a trendy, house converted coffee shop in downtown Franklin. I ordered a healthy hipster breakfast…NOT. Pancakes and sausage…made with olive oil to make it good for me 😉. We got caught up on life and the many twists and turns of our uncharted lives. The conversation eventually migrated to the subject of the church. I guess this is unavoidable, seeing that I am a pastor. His passion for the gospel and the work of Christ was contagious. He will soon be leaving to serve Christ in the Middle East. I must admit our conversation was filled with lots of questions but not a lot of solutions. Questions about the “church”; especially the expression of it here in America. What’s wrong with the Church today? Why is the Church so… “churchy”?
Thankfully our conversation did not turn into church-bashing. There is an incredible amount of that going on today. People complain about the church, talk about the church and even say they are through with…finished or quitting the church; People love hating on the church…in fact it seems to be popular, even cool.
A few years ago, I was helping serve lunch at our girls’ school when I overheard a conversation where one Mom asked another where she attended church? “Well…we really don’t…I am so over church”, she said. This surprised me a little since this was a Christian homeschooling tutorial. Later that mom turned to me and asked, what I did for a living, and I told her I was a pastor…awkward silence… We discussed the church in America and what bad shape it is in. There are a lot of legitimate complaints people have about the American church, I have to admit.
How do you view today’s church? Unfortunately, what people equate with church is what happens or doesn’t happen on Sunday mornings. The preaching/teaching. The music. The Children and Youth programs. This is their definition of church. What we forget is that church is not an event but a people; Not a building but a people. Not a program but a people. God’s people. The Body and Bride of Christ. You and I make up the church; and if the church is messed up, it is because we are messed up.
Back to my conversation with Hunter: we asked ourselves the question… How do we better engage with the people around us? How do we move outside the four walls of the church building? We find ourselves so often in the Christian bubble and we become complainers and “church critics” when we should be living out our faith in everyday life. I loved what Hunter said in one of his comments, I will paraphrase, “Ray, your job is to equip us so that we go out and do the work of ministry.” AMEN!
The truth is, we are all missionaries to everyone we meet, everywhere we go. This is called missional living. As the church, we should be on the move representing Christ in everyday life. I remember reading an article about this years ago. Let me share it with you…listen carefully!
8 Easy Ways to Easily Be Missional
by Jonathan Dodson May 6, 2010
Missional is not an event we tack onto our already busy lives. It is our life. Mission should be the way we live, not something we add onto life: “As you go, make disciples….”; “Walk wisely towards outsiders”; “Let your speech always be seasoned with salt”; “be prepared to give a defense for your hope”. We can be missional in everyday ways without overloading our schedules. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Eat with Non-Christians. We all eat three meals a day. Why not make a habit of sharing one of those meals with a non-Christian or with a family of non-Christians? Go to lunch with a co-worker, not by yourself. Invite the neighbors over for family dinner. If it’s too much work to cook a big dinner, just order pizza and put the focus on conversation. When you go out for a meal invite others. Or take your family to family-style restaurants where you can sit at the table with strangers and strike up conversation. Cookout and invite Christians and non-Christians. Flee the Christian subculture.
2. Walk, Don’t Drive. If you live in a walkable area, make a practice of getting out and walking around your neighborhood, apartment complex, or campus. Instead of driving to the mailbox, convenience store, or apartment office, walk to get mail, groceries, and stuff. Be deliberate in your walk. Say hello to people you don’t know. Strike up conversations. Attract attention by walking the dog, taking a 6-pack (and share), bringing the kids. Make friends. Get out of your house! Take interest in your neighbors. Ask questions. Pray as you go. Save some gas, the planet, and some people.
3. Be a Regular. Instead of hopping all over the city for gas, groceries, haircuts, eating out, and coffee, go to the same places. Get to know the staff. Go to the same places at the same times. Smile. Ask questions. Be a regular. I have friends at coffee shops all over the city. My friends at Starbucks donate a ton of left over pastries to our church 2-3 times a week. We use them for church gatherings and occasionally give to the homeless. Build relationships. Be a Regular.
4. Hobby with Non-Christians. Pick a hobby that you can share. Get out and do something you enjoy with others. Try City League sports. Local rowing and cycling teams. Share your hobby by teaching lessons. Teach sewing lessons, piano lessons, violin, guitar, knitting, tennis lessons. Be prayerful. Be intentional. Be winsome. Have fun. Be yourself.
5. Talk to Your Co-workers. How hard is that? Take your breaks with intentionality. Go out with your team or task force after work. Show interest in your co-workers. Pick four and pray for them. Form mom groups in your neighborhood and don’t make them exclusively Christian. Schedule play dates with the neighbors’ kids. Work on mission.
6. Volunteer with Non-Profits. Find a non-profit in your part of the city and take Saturday a month to serve your city. Bring your neighbors, your friends, or your small group. Spend time with your church serving your city. Once a month. You can do it!
7. Participate in City Events. Instead of playing X-Box, watching TV, or surfing the net, participate in city events. Go to fundraisers, festivals, clean-ups, summer shows, and concerts. Participate missionally. Strike up conversation. Study the culture. Reflect on what you see and hear. Pray for the city. Love the city. Participate with the city.
8. Serve your Neighbors. Help a neighbor by weeding, mowing, building a cabinet, fixing a car. Stop by the neighborhood association or apartment office and ask if there is anything you can do to help improve things. Ask your local Police and Fire Stations if there is anything you can do to help them. Get creative. Just serve!
OK…no more complaining about the “Church”. You ARE the church. It’s amazing that God would use such a messed-up people to represent Him. What a beautiful mess we are. Now, let’s go out and BE the church!