As anyone who reads what I write or listens to what I say, one of the things that bothers me most is the issue of connecting with the people Jesus misses. Sometimes we call them lost, although I know from personal conversations that this is not a word they would use to describe themselves. In fact, for some, lost was what they felt when they did go to church! That aside, and the vocabulary issues relegated from a priority position they probably don't deserve, the question remains: How do we connect with, spend time with and generally reach the missing? Couple this with the concept of being a missional community that focuses on people rather than programmes, and although the question doesn't go away, it asks us to make some shifts in our thinking.
In the traditional pattern of being the church, we'd most likely look to a programme by which we could get these missing folk into church. We'd assume that if only we got them through the doors, the rest would be fairly straightforward. Preach a clear gospel, invite a response and there you have it. Instant Christians. But we all know that this isn't how it is.
Now I'm not saying that these things are not important. But I think we'd all have to agree that the major missing ingredient in all of this is that we just don't get people into church. So no matter how good our celebrations might be, how clear and compelling our gospel presentation might be, they are just not there to hear it.
So how do we rediscover connecting with ordinary people in ordinary ways that, by the grace of God, might lead to gospel conversations and opportunities to help people find faith? I think one solution lies in the antithesis of the Christian ghetto. In other words, we have to spend quality and quantity time outside of the church community, and here's one suggestion about how to do that.
Find something you really like doing and do it with unchurched people.
Are you interested in learning a new skill? Find an adult education course, go, make friends, learn the new skill and maybe an opportunity will arise. Instead of starting a church-based walking group, join the local ramblers or start a community walking group. No evangelistic agenda, the kind of thing that requires an epilogue at the end of each walk, just a group who go walking together.
I remember Jim Wallis saying something along the lines of: Find out what you do best, and then do it in a way that makes a difference. Perhaps we need a similar motto for rebuilding our friendship base in our communities.
Do what you love doing, but do it in a way that builds relationships.
So, with that in mind, I guess I ought to start up a social tennis group in the local park, given my recent foray into the sport!