How do established ministries and churches practice love and life beyond its traditional margins? It’s a great question with a multitude of possibilities.
From my point of view there is no better way than to give as much time to the culture you find yourself planted in as you give to the people you live in community with. Twenty years ago someone convinced me of the importance and value of giving one day a week to those who live in the world outside my church office. So with books and papers in tote I would visit a local Starbucks every Tuesday. There I would spend time preparing my sermon, but more importantly it was a place where I established a handful of friendships with non-Christians. With time and trust I was able to listen to the myriad ways non-churched people viewed church and Christianity.
With time I became enamored with the idea of creating safe places for the culture I lived in. Every week I would approach the elders with new ideas. More often than not I felt I scared them with what I thought were good ideas on ways to love people and nudge the church, little by little, beyond its traditional understandings.
- Have a Credit Card Debit Revival every two months and pay off someone’s credit card.
- Spend every other Saturday on campus offering $25 a head to have a few college students come and share their perceptions, experiences, and understanding of church and Christians. The investment to learn from someone outside our four walls about perceptions and impressions of us — and, at the same time, afford us opportunities with them—is not a costly one.
- Connect with the host culture by taking ministries out of the church building and placing them in different buildings throughout the community. For this to become a reality a clear vision narrative is essential. And that vision must become the consensus of the leadership and have the passion and energy to be mobile, determined and willing to move beyond the confines of a “one building” or “one campus” for the sake of the people God misses the most.
Yea, my ideas were considered weird and crazy two decades ago. But I’m still convinced that whatever we do as outreach must have sufficient momentum to resist the centripetal attraction of exclusive, self-obsessed Christian fellowship and must be sustained by more than just a commitment to mission—it will require a whole way of being Christian, a culture, a lifestyle that is comfortable functioning without the regular weekly church structure, that is able to draw on a diffuse set of spiritual resources, that is innovative and creative in generating community and in providing mutual support. At the very heart of it all must be an instinctive enthusiasm for developing a “cross-border” spirituality. For too long evangelical spirituality has been driven by Bible study. In my humble opinion faith communities need to shift in the direction of a less confident, exploratory mode of relating to God where we explore our way out of the narrow confines of traditional evangelicalism into a missional space where theological reflection becomes more meaningful.
There is no particular template for cross-border communities. They could be small or large, short-term or long-term, personal or impersonal, organized or disorganized. Cross-border communities will be dependent on the development of an outlook, a way of life, and a sense of personal empowerment for the apprentice of Jesus in this complex and crazy world that we live in.
Perhaps one key criterion would be the need to get ourselves to a point where in relating to the non-christian we can say that we are on common ground. To find a common point where our journeys converge so that we can build relationships on the basis of spiritual commonality.
Talk about love and life beyond the margins. Just think about the possibilities.