Chiming in: “A church is not a random sampling of the place it is in”

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Today I wanted to chime in on another good post by Justin Long. As an aside, if you are interested in missions and church planting, you need to follow Justin. You can find his blog here, and his Twitter account here.

Justin recently posted a short piece he called, “A church is not a random sampling of the place it is in,” and there are some important insights here for those in pastoral ministry and those desiring to plant.

The post is real short, but I’m going to pull quote a few statements he makes:

If a church does not reflect the community it is in, the things that drive the church (needs, desires, values, etc) will not be reflective of the community, either.

What drew the people in the church to the church is not necessarily what would draw the rest of the community.

Outreach programs that will draw the rest of the community will not necessarily be immediately appealing to those in the church.

You need apostolically gifted people who are able to function ‘on the edge’ between the church and the community, and reach into the community–and those who are successful will likely be very unlike the church.

The conclusions that Justin draws here may run against the popular narrative for church planting (particularly in the US), but he is right.

The grand narrative for church planting in the US now is focused on multi-cultural expressions of church. We say things like, “We want our church to be an accurate cross section of our community,” and more idealistic, “we want our church to look like heaven.” And by that last statement we mean a little sampling of every tribe, tongue, and nation worshipping together under one roof.

However, much of our North American church planting is based in a “come and see” approach to ministry. We set up shop and attempt to draw people in to corporate settings (large group worship or even small group study) and expect to reach a wide range of people. At least, we say we want to reach a wide range of people. Unfortunately, when we use a “come and see” model, we will inevitably set up a church that attracts people with the same preferences as us.

With Justin, I want to encourage local churches (and church planters) to consider the need for those who can function on that fringe between the church and the community. In fact, I would go a step further and say that reality requires us to have more than one church in a community. Perhaps we think too highly of our abilities if we think we can plant some cultural expression of church that equally, or even adequately, reaches all of the diverse segments of any community.

Instead, we need to embrace the value of multiple congregations, all different cultural expressions, cooperating together to reach other diverse groups in a city. Personally, I think that could look more like heaven than we realize.

Check out the rest of Justin’s article here: A church is not a random sampling of the place it is in

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