I have always thought and focused on establishing churches (church planting) that does outreach. However, recently I have begun to think about and act upon this new thought: Why not establish an outreach that becomes a faith community (a church, in time). Then the focus is outreach and seeing the lost saved – the focus is not establishing a church and all that this entails.
I know, not very interesting for a topic of a blog. But then, it’s my blog and I am interested in it. And, I believe that it is a God-thought and one worth thinking about. So, let me think out loud. In the United States there are now 71 distinct lifestyle segments and 66 in Canada. And these numbers are growing, multiplying annually. What fits for one group will not work with another. Each group has its own focus, interests, understanding of life, lifestyle, and needs.
So, planting a church and gearing it for “people” is simply not working. Even planting a church and gearing the services for a broad group such as “seekers” and “unsaved” is really not working. But, moving in to a neighbourhood and opening a home to a specific, targeted group of people (a distinct lifestyle segment) and allowing them to feel at home, comfortable, accepted, and safe does work. Here in this “outreach” you might have the seeds for and the start of a new church. Maybe! But, right from the start the focus is outreach and the lost – not the church and all its organizational needs and issues. It is just people hanging out together, drinking coffee and eating home-made brownies.
A few days ago I acted upon this thought. And, with the kind help of a couple of wonderful believers who opened their home, met with 8 people… the vast majority of whom do not attend church in any form. It was simply a night to ask any question you might have. After three hours we settled down to just relating and talking. But, before this gentle ending we had questions from young people who are in university, a university grad looking for a job, a young Christian from another church that does not believe in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, several young people who are struggling with life, and an atheist. It was an “outreach” to those who would not likely seek out and attend a local church. It was amazing. Powerful! Energizing! Repeatable….
The questions were amazing and wide-ranging; the young people were open and honest; the discussion was frank, in depth, and engaging. Some questions were easy to answer; others were not. But, it was open, honest, searching, and engaging. It was a discussion and not a lecture (sermon). it was interactive and not a teaching (sermon). It was geared to those in attendance and the questions were initiated by those attending. So, they were attentive and interested.
As we continue to meet weekly I am hoping we will see more emphasis on personal spirituality, experiencing God, and providing community. Moving forward from questions and issues – an outreach group – and building it into a (house) church that is strong and vibrant as well as reproducing … moving down the neighbourhood and opening up another lighthouse for the Gospel as they “go into all the world”.