In earlier posts I have suggested that people are searching for community and purpose. People are lonely and many are depressed. People are looking for a sense of purpose and impact. Where the church has come to understand this is when a church is vital.
When a church becomes part of the community and has a heart for its people and their concerns, the church can provide the impact and transformation people desire. This is the desire of both people who are already a part of the church and people of the community. Long gone are the days when the church could sit on its hill overlooking the community and believe that people will suddenly wake up on Sunday morning and feel an intense need and desire to drive up to the hilltop to be a part of the church community. Instead, the people of the congregation will need to come down from the hilltop and be a part of the community, building relationships, caring for their fellow citizens, and finding intersections of where the community and church meet. This isn’t about charity. It is about authentic, caring relationships.
The church needs to become part of the heartbeat of the community rather than expecting the heart of the community to beat for the church. The church is to be a deployed movement because our hearts are breaking for the community. Churches need to quit bellyaching about how people are too busy with activities on the weekend and should instead be in the church. (“They” need to change, not “us.”) The truth of the matter is that people have found community and purpose in those activities because they could no longer find that in the church!
Don’t get me wrong, I intend to cast no blame on anyone. Congregations are made up of people who are doing exactly as they were trained to do. Place your bottom in the pew on Sunday, throw your bucks in the offering plate, and take care of your building. This is the expectation of “being a good church member” and the people of that day complied and continue to do so. This worked in past decades when we lived in a church-centric culture. But our current culture and our younger generations desire something different. They are looking for transformation rather than membership. They are looking for impact rather than attendance. Hence grows the divide in cultural relevance and the decline in church participation and interest.
To be the church of today and of the future, the congregation must be grounded in being disciples of Jesus who have a heart for the community as a whole and the individuals whose lives they take responsibility for reaching with the gospel. This congregation must be willing to give up their preferences, comfort and methods to reach new people. Mature disciples are willing, able, and eager to do this because this is exactly how Jesus both modeled and taught.
Congregations that will be vital in the coming years won’t have to do some new fang dangled, bright, and shiny thing, they will simply need to embrace the relational approach of caring for people and sharing the Good News.
It’s that simple.