Every evangelical or emergent or missional – or whatever churches are calling themselves these days – has a vision. Having served on various church staffs for years, the overall vision is to “reach people” or “develop fully committed followers” or some variation of that.
Now, this is where it gets interesting. Most of these church develop a sort of business plan to reach these people. We were taught somewhere that you have to have something to rally people around if you want them to keep coming and bringing their friends. I guess God just isn’t enough… but that’s beside the point.
There apparently has to be something “out there” that is the goal. This “goal” motivates people, challenges them and most importantly (let’s not forget this) keeps them giving money to “the vision”.
Here’s one such vision that I church I am familiar with has had since it’s inception over ten years ago.
For almost as long as I can remember, it’s been the dream of many at First Church (church name has been changed) to someday build a community center for our area. Not just “another church building” that’s used mostly on weekends or mostly for our own needs, but a center for our community. An auditorium that doubles as a basketball court all week long for area kids’ teams. Kids’ classrooms that double as day care rooms during the week. A large game room and youth rooms that are used for after school programs. Great rooms that are available for AA and 12-step groups, karate classes, and any number of other community functions. A coffee shop where small groups meet or where people from our church hook up on the way home after work or where a mom waits while her pre-teen son practices with his basketball team….
And what if we were to strategically leverage their presence in our space to potentially connect them with God – no strings attached? The dream took flight. We pictured a day in the not-too-distant-future when a mom would drop her son or daughter off for a 5:30 basketball practice. And instead of sitting in her SUV reading her book, she’d come into the coffee shop located conveniently in front to sip a latte and read. On the table is an advertisement for a 4-week support group / seminar on parenting pre-teen kids occurring – what a coincidence! – exactly on this night of the week, during this hour!
True, there may be many people who would frequent our space and still never consider coming to a class or a group or our church. That’s where the “no strings attached” part comes! (And that’s where a true servant’s posture kicks in!) But the evidence over the years seems to demonstrate that even many of the most spiritually-resistant people become open to God at times of crises in their lives. And during those times, they turn first toward the people and places they’ve already been exposed to. We would like to be among those people and places, when the time comes, whom God might use to resurrect spiritual life in their hearts.