Every once in a while, I need to pick up Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission and reread the first chapter to remind myself what is true about our context.
Let me confess: I am prone to think about effective ministry in all the wrong categories. I tend to forget an important truth: that “the Christian gospel has moved from the center of our culture to the margins” (p.13). As I look around, I still see churches using familiar methods, and it seems to “work.” I forget that those methods are reaching a declining number of people. “People can be attracted to a church by what it offers,” says Jim Petersen, “but . . . increase of this sort isn’t church growth at all. It’s just a reshuffling of the same fifty-two cards” (p.18). I agree with the thesis of the authors:
We want to suggest that most of our current dominant models of church and evangelism are Christendom models. This needs to change as we move to a post-Christendom and post-Christian context. (p.23)
So here are some quotes I need to read that give you a taste of why I need to read this chapter regularly to remind myself of what is now true. If they’re right, and I think they are, then the implications are profound.
We have the opportunity to become communities focused on Jesus and his mission…What is fast disappearing is the opportunity to reach notionally religious people through church activities. (p.13)
Merely opening our doors each Sunday is no longer sufficient. Offering a good product is not enough. (p.15)
What is clear is that great swathes of America will not be reached through Sunday morning services. (p.15)
Seventy percent of the United Kingdom population have no intention of ever attending a church service. That means new styles of worship will not reach them. That means fresh expressions of church will not reach them. That means Alpha and Christianity Explored evangelistic courses will not reach them. That means guest services will not reach them. That means churches meeting in pubs will not reach them. That means toddler churches meeting at the end of the school day will not reach them. The vast majority of unchurched and de-churched people would not turn to the church even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of “improving the product” of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events. (p.17)
We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church. (p.27)
We cannot rely on business as usual. It cannot mean more of the same. It must involve a qualitative change rather than simply a quantitative change. (p.27)
I know these things. I just forget them as I default to old mental models. It’s why I find this chapter helpful every time I read it.