Duane Litfin has an interesting response to the well-known quote erroneously attributed to St. Francis. While I think that Litfin sets up a false analogy equating verbal and non-verbal communication with word vs. deed, I think his emphasis on the explicit and verbal proclamation of the Gospel is an important one. It’s not enough just to do good works. They must be done in Jesus’ name, and you’ve got to speak it. It can’t be implied.
A CNN belief blog post today got me thinking, “why am I committed to the church?” I’m playing Mr. Mom this morning, and I’m reminded of the amount of work and emotonal duress my dear wife has to endure every Sunday morning to get our three warrior sons ready for civilized church.
Why do so many people put aside all their weekend plans to join together every Sunday? To come together to sit, sing, and listen to someone talk about the Scriptures? Why and how do some people come to the decision they just don’t want to do it anymore?
In seminary, we were told that there were two classes of people that we needed to think about in terms of ministry – churched and unchurched. I think there’s a third – dechurched. These are folks who grew up in the church, but for one reason or another, left the church. Church growth specialists have called it a “silent exodus” among several groups. I think this is an ever-growing group, and I’m a bit curious. For those like the blogger who weren’t traumatized or gravely hurt by the church, why do they leave? What about the weekly routine of being in a congregation is unsatisfying?
Leave a thought.
There are eight foundational principles to Christian Community Development:
- Listening to the community
- Leadership Development
- Wholistic Approach
An explanation of each of these could fill an entire website, so I’ll leave you to study them on your own. Instead, I want to state that underlying all of these principles lies the core conviction that a church should exist to bless the immediate neighborhood and community that it is located in. While this can be nuanced in several ways (eg: churches that are not tax drains, the rise of commuter churches, the return to a model of neighborhood parish, etc.), I think the simplest way to put it is to ask, “if your church were to close its doors, would anyone care?”
Generally speaking, there are three church-community relationships: a church IN the community, a church TO/FOR the community, and a church WITH the community.
1. Church IN the community – this is your prototypical commuter church. Most of the congregation drives in from outside the immediate neighborhood. The particular locale of the church is merely a matter of convenience. The building happens to reside on that particular parcel of land. The church often exists only for its members and very little neighborhood inhabitants think the church exists to serve them.
2. Church TO/FOR the community – this type of church has some common “outreach” ministries that exist to serve the neighborhood. These ministries are directed by, dreamed up, and executed by the church FOR the community. There is very little input from the community. They are the clients. The church is the service provider.
3. Church WITH the community – this type of church recognizes its symbiotic, divinely-ordained relationship with the particular community that it is located in. It is in true partnership with the neighborhood – listening, inviting, and participating with the neighborhood residents.
There’s so much more explanation that can be given, but I’ll leave it to a simple and creative parable to depict this. As you watch, ask yourself, “how is my church like/unlike the characters?”