On Thursday, our church will shutter the doors of the building where we have held our midweek Bible studies for several years. Or more appropriately, we will keep the doors closed until Sunday.
Instead, we will gather at the homes of some of our members, brew some coffee, put out some hors d’oeuvres and open for business.
Welcome to the new-and-improved midweek church service.
In a gutsy move, our pastor has placed each of our parishioners in nearly 20 groups of 10 to 20 people. The purpose of these groups is to hang out and get to know each other — what church people call fellowship.
The groups will also provide a venue for discipleship, that critical but often overlooked phase in the development of newly minted Christians. New Christians need a safe, friendly venue where they can ask questions about their beliefs and network with other believers to share experiences and get support.
Third, the groups will serve as a place where people with little to no knowledge of Christianity can come, learn and ask questions. We hope these people find us through friends who are already in our groups — what church people call evangelism — or through advertising in the community, i.e. fliers, craigslist, etc.
We don’t know where this will lead. But we can’t go back to the world of opening our doors for the sake of our existing members. We can’t continue to hoard our resources for the benefit of the converted. Those who are already part of the church have to adopt a servant outlook and transcend the mindset that believes the church exists solely as a organism where people can get their needs met. Is that part of the mission of the church? Absolutely. But many of the people in our church and churches across America never make the transition from church member to church participant.
One of the things I appreciate about my pastor is how he views success with regard to church growth. It isn’t based on how many people are in the building on Sundays. That’s easy. Success is measured by how many people are in the community who have never heard your message, The Message. (the Gospel, not the Bible Translation.) To wit: broader Christianity isn’t doing too well at communicating its message.
Please keep my wife and I as well as our church in your prayers as we redefine ourselves for the betterment of our community. I’m really excited about the notion of opening our home to the community. Who knows what will happen?