Re-routing many Christians towards a missional lifestyle is a slow, long, difficult process. For many people, we are asking them to reconsider everything they’ve experienced “in church.”
I’ve been revisiting many of these thoughts lately as we push forward with our Church of the Cross family.
As Tim Chester and Steve Timmis remind us in Total Church, as we orient our lives around the Gospel and Community, we might need to re-examine some of our preconceived notions of what “church” should look like. It might mean:
- seeing church as an identity instead of a responsibility to be juggled alongside other commitments
- celebrating ordinary life as the context in which the word of God is proclaimed with “God-talk” as a normal feature of everyday conversation
- running fewer evangelistic events, youth clubs, and social projects and spending more time sharing our lives with unbelievers
- starting new congregations instead of growing existing ones
- preparing Bible talks with other people instead of just studying alone at a desk
- adopting a 24-7 approach to mission and pastoral care instead of staring ministry programs
- switching the emphasis from Bible teaching to Bible learning and action
- spending more time with people on the margins of society
- learning to disciple one another – and to be disciples – day by day
- having churches that are messy instead of churches that pretend
Timmis and Chester push us even further to learn to redefine “success” and “failure” in the life of the local church:
If someone was being sent as a missionary to a hostile context overseas, our attitude would be something like this: We would expect to pray often for them. We would expect progress in building relationships and sharing the Gospel to be slow. We would be excited by small steps – a gospel conversation here, an opportunity to get to know someone there. We would thrive on regular updates from the front line. But the truth is that the lives of many Christians in work, and play, are just like the life of that far-flung missionary! They are lived out in tough environments where progress is often slow and many factors make evangelism extremely difficult. The challenge is to make news from the staff canteen as valued as news from the overseas mission field.
Making church life “simple,” is often much more difficult than we realize; especially if we’ve ever been part of a culture in which the “holier” people are the ones who are at the “church building” the most.