The excellent magazine, Mission Frontiers, has devoted an entire issue (available online) to movements in western contexts, specifically the USA. Some of the articles are good for sparking ideas and dreams of what can happen as God releases his church ‘out of the building’ and into the process of making disciples and gathering simply. And, isn’t it interesting how many traditional worshipers are, in fact, out of their buildings at this time!
The lead editorial is titled: “Movements Can Happen Here Too, If We Are Willing to Work for Them.” Here are a couple of highlights:
The model of ministry pursued by most churches in the U.S. where we go to a big building once a week, sing a few songs, listen to a sermon, go home, forget what was said in the sermon and then repeat this process week after week, is killing the Church in America and everywhere else it is exported. At best the Bible-believing Church in America is barely holding its own and is likely in a slow decline with an increasing number of people moving into the “no faith” category. We are losing the culture to increased secularism, biblical illiteracy and moral decline. We are also often losing our own kids to unbelief. The status quo is unacceptable.
The doing-church-as-usual crowd may be comfortable with a Christian faith that requires little of them and provides the worship experience they are looking for, but this model of doing church is leaving the great majority of lost souls untouched and the surrounding culture unchanged.
Employing an attractional approach to ministry in the hope that the unsaved will come in the door of your church, hear the gospel and be saved is at best a passive approach to ministry that leaves most of the unchurched, untouched. According to Barna research, two-thirds of the unchurched have been to church and do not wish to return. Creating all sorts of new programs in the hope of attracting them will not work. We need a new strategy.
Instead of asking the unchurched to come, why not equip your church members to go and make disciples of their friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances? People who will not darken the door of your church will very likely respond positively to an invitation to dinner at a friend’s home where the gospel may be sensitively shared. They may even respond well to an invitation to see what the Bible says about God.
This, for me, captures the heart of what I refer to as “simple church.” Not a different way to 'do church’ but a lifestyle that is primarily outside the confines of buildings and traditions where believers are interacting with, loving, and reaching those who are far from God. It is not so much a strategy as a Jesus way-of-life. Simple, reproducible, engaging organically with people, gathering for growth and accountability, and motivated to join the Jesus-mission of doing the same with others.