I long for a church that can be outwardly-focused without constantly pushing evangelism on the congregation, and for a church that does not relate evangelism with church growth as an end.
So quoth I a few weeks ago in this post, which I recommend reading if you haven’t yet. (The post has also been republished at emergingchurch.info.) This was point number six of nine, and I am continuing to elaborate on them one by one and one after another after another as I continue to process their meaning.
In this installment to flesh out my sixth longing, the first aspect is that in the church I long for, the congregation doesn’t sit through endless urgings to do “missions”, to “witness”, and to “share your faith”… often while practising a cloistered lifestyle in which church events keep people far to busy to actually know who their neighbours are. Rather, the church I long for is simply oriented toward being in contact with the culture in which they live and the people with whom they share it. In this blog, I have mentioned a “touchstone phrase” several times: “Live your faith. Share your life.” This is at the heart of what I long for on this subject. We attempt to “share our faith” as if it’s all about our explanations and urgings to confess Jesus. Far more effective would be to just live what we believe, and share our lives. In this manner, people will get the message far more powerfully… and it’ll be genuine.
This is one way of understanding what’s happening to us right now: We are being forced, perhaps kicking and screaming, to become missionaries. Whatever else this postmodern thing is doing, it is making it hard to avoid thinking like missionaries.
I asked here rhetorically once, why ecclesiology and missiology weren’t the same conversation. I want a church where they are.
Secondly, my longing is for a church that doesn’t equate evangelism with church growth. Seems it’s all about the numbers, which I want to get away from… if they were that important, it seems to me that at least one of the gospel writers would have told us how many “decisions” were made by the people to whom Jesus preached.
We’re geared toward the stats, but I don’t so much think that God is. God is geared toward relationship, and he’s interested in quality of relationship more than how many of them he can get. More importantly, church growth is bad motivation for evangelism. If the numbers are the motivation, then it’s more about what people can do for you by coming to your church. Relationship, on the other hand, is great motivation.