This morning's plenary session featured Scott Dudley, pastor of First Presbyterian Bellevue, WA. Scott began with a story of a high school student doing a paper on an unusual profession. She decided to do her paper on a pastor, for she had never been to a church and didn't know anyone who ever went to church (behold the future). She trailed Scott on Sunday and after the services are all over, she asked him questions -- the first being "I don't get it -- why do you all get together and sing?"
His point being this -- what we do is increasingly strange and unfamiliar to a watching world. Not just strange and unfamiliar -- even a little bizzare. In such a world we have to ask "how do we get people curious about Jesus" -- we can no longer build it and they will come. Advertising won't be our main means of attraction. Even in the bible belt, less than 45% of the population attends church. As my house church and emerging church friends have told me for a long time -- we are in a post-christian culture.
Scott gave us the challenge that we as Christians are called to go into the world where we are: “Jesus didn’t call the world to go to church, he called the church to go to the world.” or how about this quote: “evangelism is doing those things that provoke the question the answer to which can only be Jesus.” The question is how do we put some flesh on this concept. He gave a few ideas from what they were doing at Bellevue church in Washington:
1) Change the address of the church. It isn't your physical plant -- it is wherever the congregation members are at any given moment. As I write this, my church is distributed in offices, homes, shops, hospitals, and neighborhoods -- all of them serving as "God's antibodies fighting the disease of darkness, sin, and evil" through countless small acts of kindness and grace and beauty and goodness and truth.
He told a powerful story of a Manager at Microsoft who decided he'd try to embody Christ's love simply by wandering about his work team and telling them what good work they were doing. The next week one of his employees came in and gave him a very expensive video game -- when he asked why the gift, the employee told him. "I bought this from the money I got from selling my gun. I was planning to commit suicide -- every night I'd listen to kurt cobain music and practice putting the gun to my head. And I figured you'd get the news when payroll told you I was gone. And then last week you did something very weird -- you came up and told me how good of a job I was doing and you told me how you slept easier because I'd handled this difficult project. You saved my life -- and I've heard you talk about how you wanted this video game, so I sold my gun and bought the video game and here it is." All this from that manager taking seriously his calling to be one who was sent.
2) intentionally serving the city we're called to -- let the church look for needs to meet locally. and then simply go about meeting those needs.
3) Change what you measure. WE're really good at measuring budgets and worship attendance -- but how do we measure spiritual impact? Through Adult baptisms? Through numbers of ministries inititiated by the congregation? Through the number of stories of God at work submitted?
4) Give people a taste of being missional in a non-threatening way -- single afternoon service opportunities -- low committment -- low guilt. These are great ways to get people started in being missional and then they catch the fire.
5) Add missional components to existing church programs. One of the big mistakes many pastors make is by denigrating all the existing ministries by saying they're inward focused and we need to be outward focused. That's neither pastoral nor organic to what God has been doing in the congregation -- simply invite the ministries of the congregation to add a missional component. Bible studies can commit to pray for individuals in their neighborhoods. Small groups can adopt a local group or ministry to reach out to bless. Choirs can look for a way to do an outside activity (perhaps sing at a nursing home once a month or so).
Scott told the story of a ladies bible study that started praying for and looking for ways to bless at risk teenagers, particularly teenage mothers. AS they began to develop relationships and reach out to these young people, the bible study quadrupled in size becase the people who came saw that the bible study really was about something -- and they changed lives.
6) Encourage and empower people to find their ministry and live into it -- whatever their skills and interests are, there a ministry can be born (he told of an Auto Angels ministry -- people who are good working on cars, and they set up on Saturdays and help needy families with auto repair). Pastors need to learn to encourage, equip and get people to tell their stories -- for telling the stories creates a kind of energy -- a holy jealousy if you will -- they've got that fire and I want it.
7) Invite other people into the adventure rather than guilt them into duty. Don't guilt people into serving mission stuff -- invite them into the adventure of what it is God is doing. Don't guilt them into serving someplace they don't want to be, but invite them to be out of their comfort zone and be changed!
More to come
Soli Deo Gloria