Re-structuring the Church for Mission & Evangelism

In a few weeks I will be recording a video for Equipping
Evangelists. I was given the topic “Re-structuring the Church for Evangelism.”
I am struggling with how to address this topic giving practical advice in
twenty minutes. I wanted to take the opportunity to blog some of my thoughts
and invite you to provide input which may shape this DVD.

The Church rightly engages in four activities that make it
the Body of Christ. These are: worship, community, discipleship and mission and
evangelism. Since the early days of Christendom worship has been the preeminent
activity of the Church and the other activities revolved around this primary
activity. We found our community as we ‘went to church’, the sermon became the
ultimate discipleship tool, and evangelism was chiefly concerned with inviting
people to ‘come’ to church where they would be presented with the claims of
Christ. With this model we became less fishers of men than keepers of the
aquarium. This structure worked after a fashion as long as going to church was
seen as normative in the culture of Christendom. This is the
institutional/attractional model.

In post-Christendom society people are much less likely to
be attracted to a Church which is perceived, rightly, as counter cultural. We
are challenged to re-examine our understanding of what ought to be the activity
around which the Church organizes herself. I would suggest that the key
activity is mission and evangelism. God is a missionary God. He sent His Son
who sends the Church. Our activity in mission and evangelism: fires passionate
worship, increases true fellowship, and provides a much more natural venue for
discipleship. I do not say that one of these four is more important than the
others but that the one activity, which responds to the command of our Lord,
creates the environment in which a wholesome Church might grow.

For the attractional Church the measuring tool was the two
N’s , nickels and noses! While I agree that numbers are important I suggest we
need a new scorecard. We need to aim at and celebrate different goals. Instead
of celebrating, or bemoaning, the number of people coming in, the
post-Christendom Church counts and celebrates the number of people who are
touching others’ lives ‘out there’.

In the era of Christendom the Church was led by those with
pastoral gifts. In the post-Christendom leadership must also be exercised by
the evangelist and the spiritual entrepreneur. This requires that the Church
make a place for such leadership, and that efforts to incarnate the Good news
in the local context be encouraged, recognized and celebrated.

These practical incarnational missional activities would
vary widely and suit the local community context. I have friends who use their
musical abilities and passion as an entree to the culture of club and coffee
house music. Here real relationships are formed and friendships forged with
many who would not be attracted to our worship service. Stone washed Laundry in
uptown Saint John provides affordable laundry services and intentionally builds
wholesome relationships with those who live in rooming houses in the community.
A local school when asked what the Church could do suggested the formation of a
‘walking school bus’ where adults would walk a route accompanying children home
from school. The idea is to stop fights and bullying along the way. Can you
imagine the doors that such an opportunity opens for missional incarnational
ministry? These are just a few practical ways but there are myriads of others.
These ideas are not meant to be copied but to illustrate that a careful
prayerful examination of your local context will demonstrate a variety of ways
that the local church can engage. Those who recognize opportunities need to be
supported and honoured by the Church. Others will naturally want to join in and
this is where the fun begins!

Linda and I are off to an OMF conference in Moncton today.
An OMF missionary Patrick Hobbes is an excellent example of this incarnational
missional entrepreneurship.


4 comments on “Re-structuring the Church for Mission & Evangelism

  1. I love this line: “With this model we became less fishers of men than keepers of the
    aquarium”… I’m also curious as to whether or not the adult walking bus became a reality? It’s a great idea!

    • Alas, the walking school bus has not yet become a reality. When I was with Taylor College we had this conversation with a local school. Our students could not take this on. I have shared it with a number of local churches and still have hopes.

  2. Hey Reed,

    I loved this post. I think you were very graceful and honoring in how you spoke this truth. I really love the idea of spiritual entrepreneurs! Technology and medium has exploded in the past few years and the Church needs to be on the bleeding edge and not trapped in the past. People with these gifts and talents need to be highlighted, resourced and encouraged! Mark Driscol’s work with technology people for instance is very cool, everything online available on all devices! Thanks for posting! Micah

  3. With the help of Holy Spirit, I trust you will grasp and communicate the heart of Jesus on this video Reed!

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