Some intersections provide multiple options. Others bring you to a stop and force you to make a choice. You have to choose. You have to decide which route you will take. An apostolic epoch, like the Reformation and other significant seismic moments in church history, force a choice. This is not change inside the current paradigm. It requires one to step outside that paradigm.
Pastors have a difficult choice to make. They can retain the model of laity as passive, as non-involved, as inferior in terms of authority and training, as supporters of the pastor and his staff as they do critical ministry. Or they can choose to empower laity as partners, as mutual, and as equippers for mission. Partnership does not mean mutuality of all things. Office distinctions and roles must be observed, but stiff hierarchical and class structures are not the pattern observed in the New Testament. The current model is safer for pastors who retain control, and less demanding of laity who are fine with someone else shouldering the load – but it is not working.
The current model of catch-and-hold, must give way to a catch-and-equip-and-release model. We need a model that empowers believers and releases them for ministry. Missional ministry happens in the context of daily life, in the home, the neighborhood, the marketplace, the web of relationships. It happens with people we most often see and those who we regard as most important to us. An ‘as-you-see-and-touch-them’ ministry model must emerge, not contrived, but natural, an overflow of the inner life. And if that inner life is dry, due to the lack of prayer and a deficient devotional life typical in the modern Christian, there will be no overflow, no natural ‘good news’ moments by members to their friends and family.
This mandates a shift from Sunday religion. From being preacher-dependent for spiritual strength to daily times with God over an open Bible. It mandates a resurrection of the family altar (now only four-to-nine percent of couples pray together). We must foster, daily, let-Jesus-be-Jesus-in-me guilt-free, grace-based praying. We must teach people to read the word and pray themselves full of it until they overflow.
The ‘come to’ attractional church model is not Biblical, and it is not working. It is built on carnal appeal. It is competitive: “We’ve got better programs than the church you currently attend – try us!” It is divisive and it undermines unity. It has only served to promote transfer growth over conversion growth. The ‘come to’ model is inadequate for a genuinely New Testament Church. The campus is a place for believers to be edified and equipped, so that as they ‘go’ they minister.
This requires a model of church that can no longer be for spectators. It must prepare people to live more effectively as Christians in a hostile and pagan culture. It must instruct in core and practical theology, in personal and family soul care. It must train parents and singles, those who give themselves to intercessory prayer and evangelism. It must practice discipline and encourage the embrace of spiritual disciplines. It must coach its people to be their best as missionaries in the marketplace of life, and empower them. Such change is slow and incremental. It begins off the radar screen with a small group of strategic change agents, and then grows until it infects the congregation with new paradigm thinking.
To make the church campus a staging area for ministry will be a radical idea for many. They must begin to grasp the idea – the church it is not a place you come to; but the place you go from. Meaning, coming to church is not a terminal activity. You are not done at noon on Sunday. Rather, it is the first of two steps – worship and walk, prayer and service, edification and evangelism. This must become a weekly rhythm in the life of the engaged member. This demands more than an unorganized Sunday crowd of folks who casually know one another – this demands the transformation of the church into a community of networked change agents. Ministry at the church is important – education and edification; but ministry in the marketplace is equally important – evangelism and mission. The ministry of prayer as intercession must also be emphasized. The ministry of God’s love and care and that of sharing the good news is a duty of every believer.
We must learn the dimensions of ministry. First, we minister to the Lord – vertically (prayer as worship). He ministers to us (edification). This must become a reality – I genuinely connect with God and I sense the vital connection of and by God with me in worship. We must learn the power of participatory corporate worship – and that worship cannot be dominated by thirty minutes of music and another thirty minutes of preacher talk. This is far too narrow, allowing for too much passivity. Worship must be constructed to involve the church in prayer and confession, in soul-searching and consecration, in celebration and the blessing of peace and in corporate laments.
Second, we must practice the overflow of God’s grace inside the family – by love and care one for another. Yet, we must refuse to allow church and faith to be about us. Third, we must commit, albeit freely, to love others, especially those outside, even our enemies. And while this is noble personal ideal, only when it is acted on corporately will it take on life and become a model for personal life. The church, as a body, corporately, must model mission. It must become the hands and feet of God to the world.