I’m a Mission Pastor, which means, yes you guessed it, I oversee our church’s missional outreach in the community. Most of what I do is about encouraging people to get outside of the church building. So my title for this post is a tad tongue in cheek, obviously I do love being in church too, and I’m also about to get ordained – just incase you thought this might be an anti-establishment post. But more and more I do think we just need to get out there, outside our comfort zones, beyond the barriers of bricks and mortar, signs and labels to just reach out and love our neighbours.
My passion is for finding ways of doing church that are new and interesting, that reach people where they are at, and that are relevant to people who, let’s face it, might never step foot in a church. You see, I think it’s just no good expecting people to come to us, then learn all our rules and funny ways, and maybe after all that, even ‘join up’. I mean, this is the age of Google, where we all want instant answers, new experiences and greater knowledge, often from the seat of our comfy old arm chair or blasted out through our latest shiny iPhone.
However this is also the pluralist age where people are more likely to call themselves spiritual than admit to signing up to any one particular religion. You know the type I’m sure – those who say they feel ‘at one with a higher being when out in nature’ (yes, hands up, I was one of them once) or that to them God is just the ‘essence of good’. We make God in our image, just like everything else – because in this day and age that’s what we do. Interesting though that research shows that of those people who call themselves ‘spiritual’, hardly any would seek to find any answers in a church.
So, I want to challenge the idea that church is a building that people come to, to meet God. It’s not a new challenge of course. You will probably know that the word church comes from the Greek ekklesia, usually translated as either an assembly or called out ones so it’s really always been all about the people and not the building at all.
As a bit of a pioneer I want to challenge what the word church means to people – all people. If Jesus is our role model, he went from place to place, from field to temple, market place to fishing lake. He went where people were and spoke to them of the things they knew and understood.
So then let’s ask ourselves, what does that look like today?
Well, how about church in the pub? Or down at the social club? Or in the community café? All of which our missional outreach currently involves. Sure these things don’t look like church and often don’t sound like it either, (and hey there’s beer in more than one of them which is practically heretical) but they are where the people are. They are where people are gathering. And in those places people are meeting Jesus right where they are at.
There is still a large portion of the church that believes mission is all about inviting people to come to church on Sunday. Well, it’s not, never should have been. And if I offend you with that well, sorry – not sorry. The years where we had a ‘captive audience‘, where people came to church out of tradition or duty are soooo long gone. Sundays (or any other day for that matter) there are so many other pulls on people’s time, so many more attractive things to do than go to church. Yes we might love it but we already know the Lord, we already have friends there, we are part of a community. Just think – why would someone come to your church if they had never been to one before or had never heard about the gospel? Why would they go to church instead of to the cinema, shopping, or out with friends?
So if you are asking me (which Katie has!) then I want to find church anywhere except in the church. What about in the cinema, down your local Lidl or at the gym? ‘Really?’ you say? ‘Well why not?’ I would answer. Why on earth not…
JULES MIDDLETON: Jules is Mission Pastor at the The Point Church in Sussex. She is a wife, a mum of three and an Ordinand (training for ministry) in the Church of England. She is passionate about taking the message of Jesus outside of the church. She blogs about this and lots of other stuff at www.pickingapplesofgold.com and tweets @redjules