Churches that go out

Do we have churches that are rotting on the vine? So many of our churches (I’m speaking of South Africa, but it might well be true elsewhere as well) seem to be dwindling in membership, but, even more importantly, in zest for life. They seem to be turning inward, rather than outward. The members know and associate only with each other, and there is almost no contact with the community within which the church is placed.

Some responses that I have observed include launching what are called “outreach” programmes, by which members mean going out to bring people to the church (often, to let the minister’s preaching convert them!). A desperation tactic is to propose merging with another dwindling congregation – say, a Methodist church merging with a nearby Anglican or Presbyterian church. A popular one is to try to revive the congregation by holding teaching workshops such as an “Alpha” course, or “Disciple”. Sometimes this actually works, for a while. But the fundamental inward-facing attitude may not have changed.

We as the Church of Christ are not placed in the world primarily to comfort one another (although we are called to encourage one another in the work of God). We are not called to cling so exclusively – and fearfully! – to the Vine that we forget to bear fruit in the world. Out purpose in abiding in Christ (John 15) is to bear fruit, and the fruit that we bear is not to refresh ourselves, but to refresh others, to draw others nearer to the source of love of Whom we are but a reflection.

I have a vision of a new approach to church, one that goes out from the building. I see a pastor leading the flock, not inside to the altar but out and into the community (by personal example first). I see church members whose service is not pouring tea for the members after the service, but “washing the feet” of the hoboes at the soup kitchen, members who are offering their homes (rather than the church buildings!) as places of safety to abused women and children, members who are speaking with prostitutes and convicts, not in their own righteousness but in love and concern for the well-being of those who are different, desperate, and often despairing.

After giving yourself to Jesus Christ comes giving yourself to others for His sake.

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2 Responses to Churches that go out

  1. Tony says:

    What you are describing is what the first century Christians did. They met house to house. Church buildings, as we know them, did not exist. They had all things in common. Needs were met by brothers and sisters in the body. It sounds like you are catching a vision of what is known as simple church. A church without all the trappings of buildings and church staff.
    I had a vision that the Lord showed me recently that I will post here. Pray about it and see what the Lord speaks to you about it.

    1 Corinthians 14:26 NIV

    What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be
    done so that the church may be built up.

    The Lord showed me a vision 02/26/2013 and in this vision I saw people gathered around an oval table. The table was low to the ground so that you had to sit on the floor. The people I saw sitting there around the table each had a piece of a puzzle. As they all worked together, the image on the puzzle began to take shape and when they were finished, the picture was of Jesus Christ. He was the center of the meeting. Each one had to do his part in finishing the puzzle and it was not left to one person to do the work of the group. This is how real relationships are built and what church done Jesus’ way should foster.

    This is church.

    The only reason for the gathering of believers was to re-assemble the body of Christ with each part, I.e., the foot, the hand, the eye, etc. doing its part so that the church, Christ’s body on earth may be edified and that Christ may be glorified.

    They did not gather because of a charismatic leader, I.e., a pastor.

    They didn’t gather because of church programs.

    They didn’t gather because of the worship team.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! We need a revival of God’s vision and understanding of the Church as the Body and Bride of Christ, not a club offering services in return for vounteer services from the members. May God stir our hearts to pray till we see His vision and will being established here on earth as it is in heaven!

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