Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For whom are we doing church?

So we can continue to do church, and reach people who want to be church people.

This quote from Reggie McNeal came in the middle of a short piece I read somewhere about trends in church affiliation in America. I guess it stood out to me because of a recent observation that crystallised in my thinking about what it means to be a missional community. For most non-churched people, church is for churched people. It runs programmes and events for churched people. It speaks a language only church people comprehend. And it does these things in a building specifically designed for the purpose and at a time  that suits the kind of people who go to church.

Sadly, too many churched people think exactly the same. They might not vocalise it in the same way, but their expectations are that church is for them. It's about their experience in worship, their needs being met, their comfort zone setting the boundaries.

Do we really want simply to continue to do church in the hope that people will come because we are doing church better? I don't think so. Look at it from another perspective. It doesn't matter to me how well the George and Dragon or the Wagon and Horses or the Dog and Duck do the British Pub experience, I'm not going to go. I don't do pub life. I'm not a pub-goer and I'm not going to become a pub-goer.

Night clubs, salsa classes, drama groups and Morris dancing all fall into the same category of things I'm not at all interested in joining.

And that's how church must look to many people.

The challenge we face is how we take the message we have into the cultures around us. Not how do we drag people out of those cultures and into our own in order to share the message with them in our comfortable and familiar environments.

We have to leave the building. We have to leave behind the notion that if we build the best possible church, then people will come to see what we're about. That doesn't mean we stop doing church well, and it doesn't mean that we stop caring about our buildings and our programmes. It just means that we have to see them as serving the purpose of the church not defining the purpose of the church.

Well that's what I'm mulling over at the moment.

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