Reggie McNeal led this session. He related that while working with a church staff, he gave them the following:
Assignment: Leave staff meeting and find a Starbucks, mall or park bench and simply pray, “God, help me to see what you see.”
They came back and shredded the church agenda. It changed the church because it changed the staff. They realized that what God was concerned about was not what they had been concerned about.
What we discover when we go out “there” to bless people is that God has them lined up for us to relate with, influence, and be transformed by. I’m not trying to help you do church better but to simply get involved with what God is doing in our world. Get out there where God is doing things!
You’ll be working alongside of people who are not church-goers, God-fearers, and sometimes even friendly. But if it’s where God is working, then that’s where you need to be. They will get the Gospel if you let people know why you’re doing what you’re doing. We’re here to bless people in the name of Jesus. Apologetics in the new world today is not to convince people that there is a God. People already know that.
Read Anne Rice’s book about Jesus. Read her journey from atheism to full-blown orthodox Christianity. She used to write horror books about vampires. God is doing huge things in the world apart from “the church.”
Mainline denominations have been doing social gospel things for decades, and evangelicals are now shamefully realizing that they must actually get their hands dirty too. However, one Episcopalian confessed, “We’ve been doing this stuff for years, but our problem has been that we’ve been too embarrassed to mention the name of Jesus.”
People need love! Only religious people would withhold that information from people. Evangelicals have been sharing the truth for years, but who wanted to listen? Because we didn’t love people with the truth. You’ve got to have truth and proof.
It’s a worldwide spiritual movement, reemphasizing the kingdom of God. When people who don’t talk to one another are coming to the same conclusions, you realize that it’s the Spirit of God.
Move from Program-Driven to People-Development. This is a bigger shift than moving from internal to external that McNeal shared about in his session, What are we looking at? We all know the program-driven church is out of gas. It takes more and more effort to just stay in place. That effort is all man-centered. Most clergy caught in this are looking for ways out.
No minister in North America are saying, “The pagans are getting to me, I’m leaving the ministry. Rather, they say, ‘The club members are getting to me, and I’m getting out.'”
This movement tracks with the rise of the service economy, where we outsourced everything. We also outsourced spiritual formation to the church. “Heck, we pay 7% tithe down there at the church, so we expect a good children/youth ministry.” For most of Christian history, it was not outsourced; it was home-based spiritual formation.
We start staff meetings with calendars and budgets. We’ve done it so long, it feels normal. We even say, “How’s your church going? Your Sunday School?” We don’t start questions with, “How are your people doing?” There’s no people development marks on the score card. We don’t keep track of more healthy marriages, thriving spiritual lives, and people praying earnestly for God’s kingdom in the world.
We’ve got to have a new “scorecard” for the missional church. How many, how often, how much? We’ve got to expand the bandwidth of what we’re measuring. It’s got to be more poly-dimensional than what we’re doing now. We talk about kingdom, we must realize it’s not about church. How do you measure people development? It’s hard stuff.
For many ministers, our information and knowledge gets in the way of our being helpful to people. McNeal shared his experience joining a health club and meeting with a trainer. The trainer customized a development/health program for him. That’s what we have to do in the church. Before now, we’ve been doing an assembly line, assuming that everyone needs the same thing. Standardization has killed the church. When did God ever become satisfied with doing things the same old way?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55.8)
You don’t go into Starbucks and hear them say, “Lattes, lattes, that’s all we’re doing for the next two hours.” But that’s what we do in the church, “Worship, worship, preaching, preaching… That’s all you get for the next two hours…” We’ve tried to template their spiritual journeys. We need to help people became devoted to Christ and spread His Kingdom in the context of their lives. That will not look the same for everyone.
The missional house church has arrived in North America finally. It’s people who take very seriously the fact that Charlie and Mary down the street will never go to the “mother ship.” We’ve got to plant churches in Starbucks, Wal-Marts, and car dealerships – where people hang out.
At 2 a.m. recently, McNeal was at a Wal-Mart buying everything because his luggage hadn’t made it to where he was. McDonalds folks were serving fresh, hot food. None of those people were going to church in eight hours. What does that mean for us? How do we bring kingdom to them?
Conversational Mission Trip with Your Own People
The assignment with one church was to do 8 one-hour interviews over six weeks. However, some staff said they didn’t have time. No wonder people in church feel like they’re being processed more than nurtured. They begin to wonder if the church needs them just to pay the bills. Some are mad about it; some are depressed about it.
- What do you enjoy doing? (We wanted to make the point that God is interested in your life and may use what you enjoy to build the Kingdom. He may have created you to enjoy what you do for glorious purposes.)
- Where do you see God at work right now?
- What would you like to see God do in your life over the next six to 12 months?
- How can we help? (Suddenly, the staff’s agenda becomes the person’s growth rather than the church’s programs. It also implies a return visit. Boy, people really get in the way of ministry, don’t they?)
- How would you like to serve other people? And how can we help? (We’re built to serve. If we’re not serving, we’re not growing. In the missional church discipleship comes primarily through service, through learning how to help other people. Nothing will grow up quicker. This is why Jesus adopted the classroom model for disciplemaking. We’re still giving people curriculum. We need more process curriculum, not content curriculum.)
- How can we pray for you?
Move from Church-Era Leadership to A.D. 30 Leadership. Then, you didn’t have a church job. You weren’t even trying to build a church then. We’re still trying to plant churches, hoping that a movement will grow out of them. In AD 30, a movement was going, and churches got planted out of the movement. You didn’t serve First Baptist or Second Presbyterian then. You had a church venue to strategize on how to bless the community. The church is the resource center to help you reach unreached people groups and synergize the efforts of the body of Christ in the community.
Your effort on that kind of scorecard changes dramatically. Instead of office hours, you have community hours. Instead of justifying why you were gone, you have to explain why you’re still hanging around a church building.
Fear keeps us clergy from releasing some of this stuff. There’s a bunch of ministers who would stop what they’re doing right now, but they’re not employable. Leadership in AD 30 was personal, not positional. A culture that covers the dark side is unhealthy. A culture that deals with the dark side is vibrant. Leaders need to be believed in, not just because of the office they hold. It says, “Imitate me,” not “Read my book.”
For follow-up, you need to get McNeal’s book called The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church. Our church will probably be starting a reading/discussion group to facilitate some understanding and movement to this kind of thinking, so if you’re interested, holler!