Being in ministry sometimes feels like getting sucked into a church vortex. We rush from church services to small groups to potluck fellowships to prayer meetings to conferences to Bible study each week and then, come Sunday, start the cycle again.
Want to know something embarrassing? When Kyle and I announced to our previous church that we were leaving to plant a church in another state, our next door neighbor stopped us one evening when we were outside and told us how excited he was for our new venture. We were a bit confused how he knew about it, seeing as how we didn't really know him and often had trouble remembering his name. So we asked how he knew. "Oh, I go to your church." Kyle and I accepted his congratulations, walked inside, and looked at each other: He goes to our church? He's lived next door for years and we never even knew his name, much less that he went to our church.
I remember laying in bed that night, ashamed. Here we were about to stinkin' church plant and we hadn't even bothered to get to know our neighbors where we had been living for years. We were so ingrained in Christian circles that we had lost touch with the real world around us. I determined that, church planting or no church planting, I would not let that happen in our new city.
Now that we've lived in Charlottesville for several years and our church is less church plant and more real-honest-to-goodness church, I'm starting to feel the pull again. It would be so easy to enjoy the warmth of hard-earned Christian fellowship and leave the world outside the circle. It's a difficult balance keeping one front in the local community and one foot in Christian community. How are you doing with that balance? Here are some ideas, thoughts, or suggestions to mull over:
- People aren't programs. Don't be missional only (or primarily) when it's programmed by your church. Jesus said, "As you go make disciples..." Consider where God already has you (neighborhood, work, kids sports teams, moms groups, PTO, book clubs, organizations, etc) and be purposeful in those relationships. If you don't know any non-Christians, get involved in something that you enjoy, but that will also help you meet people different than you.
- Be a blessing to your city. As a church, don't plan things that require people to come to you. Go to where people already are and see how your church can be a part of serving the community there.
- Strike up conversations with people when you're out and about. I have met so many moms at the Chick-Fila playground as we sit and watch our kids. Most of the time, those conversations don't go anywhere and I never see them again. But sometimes it's different.
- Invite outsiders in. Invite people to come along with you to your small group's casual hangout times or to come over for dinner. As David Platt once said, the church often sees itself as a circle of people faced inward, but it's really a close circle of people faced outward. Help create that culture in your church.
Now it's your turn. How do you maintain that community/church balance? I look forward to hearing your wonderful ideas!