The next transitions in the church (Part II)

Small is beautiful

One of the lessons we are learning from emerging expressions of church is that being small is good. For many in the Church this can be a struggle as we judge success in terms of numerical growth. Yet there is no evidence, however, that the Apostle Paul judged the Church by these standards. Our expectations may need to change so that the church becomes a place that is easy to join but has high expectations of those who do join. One of our cafechurches has experienced this first hand. They number about 30 people, meeting in a high street coffee store. They have recently started to meet in small study groups in addition to this monthly cafechurch event and one of these small groups is made up entirely of people who are not Christians. Something transformational is taking place in the context of something very small and God does not despise this (Zechariah 4:10).

Meeting where people are

I told my optician about cafechurch and he said ‘Oh, that sounds great – going to where the people are.’ Rather than being behind our own walls churches are finding places on the high street, or somewhere similar, so that they can be where already meet. There are challenges involved because our default system in our own buildings can excuse a lack of organisational ability. When we go to the high street, the context that might look familiar but it is wholly different. Everything from the style of our leaflets to the length of our talks is crucial. In a coffee shop if our talk is boring, people start to talk amongst themselves and we may struggle to recover. Meeting people where they are may sound easy, but actually takes a great deal of thought and attention. A high street venue is significant because it gives less hurdles for people to cross over – it’s us that have more hurdles to jump to get to them, but maybe that’s the best way round! Somebody who came to speak at a cafechurch event became a Christian because the context meant they were ‘met where they were’. The next transition in the church is meeting people where they are.

I have shared four key points about the next transitions in the Church:
• giving a good welcome
• talking about real issues
• seeing small as significant
• meeting people where they are

Here are some practical applications to help us move forward.

• Rediscover how we can be welcoming

It is important that the people who give a greeting have others to refer guests to that the guest can sit with, have coffee with and talk with. Have other events to invite people to outside of the church service (e.g. pizza parties, pampering evenings, sport, etc.,)

• Raise issues that people are thinking about

The Church is increasingly becoming a place where people can talk about issues that matter to them. Is there something you could do that combines ‘word and deed’?

• See small as significant

Having a meal together as a church, is a good way of showing love in action. Try holding a simple bread and soup meal after which people donate money to sponsor a child with World Vision or Compassion.

• Meet people where they are

Find somewhere on the high street or the equivalent where you can be. (See ‘10 ways to draw people’ in my blog archive.) Why not think about starting a cafechurch – check our website for training days. This could help you to position yourself to be part of the next transitions in the Church.

Summary

Some people think that the Church is like the Titanic, rearranging itself whilst oblivious to the oncoming dangers that will eventually cause it to sink. I don’t believe that for a second. What I see is the Church moving forward changing direction but always on course. When Jesus said ‘Let’s go over to the other side’ (Mark 4:35) he was giving transitional direction to the church that could not be diverted or destroyed even by storms. The church will surely reach its destination intact.

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