Friday, June 01, 2007

Quest, Taking the church to a little girl

Today I helped facillitate the Missional Church sessions at Quest, and spoke on a panel with Grady King and Poncho Hobbes. Grady is at the South MacArthur Church of Christ in Irving, Texas. Back in the 1970s it constructed a 3500 seat auditorium, the largest in our fellowship. At that time, Irving was a thriving suburb, and the congregation was almost all white.

Today the neighborhood around the church is very much Hispanic and African-American and poor, while the church membership has stayed Caucasian (people drive in to worship) and wealthy. The minority groups will not come to worship at their building, because of socio-economic differences. They do not feel comfortable there.

So the church rented an apartment which the neighborhood people would feel comfortable going to. And on Wednesday night many Christians go over to the apartment and play with the kids, loving on them and telling them about God. And guess what? One little Hispanic girl said, I love Wednesday night. When asked why, she said, because this is our church!

Isn't this a great story? Rather than insisting that people come to them, this church went to the people--on their terms, and to bless their lives. Isn't that a great story?

How could we apply this in our local context?


the lawyer said...

James, I think some number of people, probably more than we think at first blush, who would love to go out like the folks from South MacArthur do. However, until churches are willing to make gatherings that are currently more or less mandatory into explicitly voluntary assemblies (I'm thinking of Sunday nights and Wednesday nights), I think many of those would-be workers will find it difficult to make time because they are so heavily scheduled with church, family, and work responsibilities.

I am not overly confident that churches will give up collective meetings to give members time to go out into their neighborhoods. There are a host of reasons, some of which are:

1) Fear of being called "liberal".

2) The vocal objections of members who think that if group assemblies are dismissed or made voluntary that we're taking time away from worshiping God.

3) Inertia - if things aren't wrong, why change anything?

I'm sure there are others.

I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but I think it will be difficult for established churches to make the necessary changes to facilitate outreach in this manner.


James said...


I think that you are right, that many would love to serve in this way if someone would provide these opportunities, show them how, and encourage them to do so.

You point out several of the problems in making this possible. Here is how I would respond to each of thsese:
1) Liberal--this is an almost meaningless word without definition, meaning entirely different things to different people. Many think of Liberty as liberal, and many think of Liberty as conservative. This is not an argument for or against.

2) Taking time away from worshipping God--Using our bodies in service to God is a Spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1-2) and is just as biblical. If you look at the life of Jesus and the instructions of Paul to the churches, it is clear that the overwhelming emphasis is upon non-formal worship activities. The emphasis is upon service and moral character.

3) Inertia--This is of course human nature, to not change anything. But our world has changed, and we have to help people to see this.

Fundamental to all of this is a belief that we are called to go out into the world. It is a go and serve/proclaim vs. a build it and they will come mentality.

When I see churches like South MacArthur and others changing their structure to more fully support the mission of the church, I have great hope. To have a community tell you that they won't come to you, and then to refuse to make changes, is to care more about doing things the way that they have always been done more than reaching people. Our actions and our allocation of time and resources show what is most important to us.

Thanks for sharing.