Deep in my church-life experience is the notion that the physical church building and the programs of ministry provided there are the hub through which effective ministry flows. I attended virtually every weekend service provided and the week day options and served people in a variety of ways. Sunday school was classroom like. Ministry was designed as an observation from the people in rows to the “experts” on the stage. The best singers sang on behalf of us all. In short, it was fantastic.
The world in which these ministry approaches succeeded was stable, predictable and consistent. The vast majority of people were connected to very similar things. For example, if folks watched television it was either ABC, NBC or CBS. There were three primary sources of television information. The newspaper provided the written content from which most people received reports. You were a chocolate, vanilla or strawberry ice cream man. Your choices for vehicles were Chevy, Ford or Dodge. The bigger the motor the better. Bigger was always better.
Friendships were both geographical and local. One’s best friends lived no more than a couple of streets away. You knew your cousins and nephews because the family lived near by. If your friends and family were a long distance away, you called them every so often because there wasn’t enough money to make long distance phone calls regularly. The post office was part of your emotional well being because it was from them that you received and sent most of your communications. One could almost feel lost if she didn’t have postage stamps.
People expressed that they had many friends and the number of socially connected relationships were growing for virtually everyone.
America was a grand idea to which virtually all of the citizens agreed. America was a belief that was worth living and dying for. And everyone seemed to know, personally, someone who had gone to war to defend this America idea. People stood in respect when the flag passed by. In the back of the national conscience was the belief that “this is a Christian nation.”
Since this was considered a Christian nation, missions meant to go to other nations to share the Good News. They needed us.
Everything has changed. The church must swim in this new aquarium or die.
Last week I was talking with one of the wisest people I know, Dr. Wirachai Kowae. Pastor Wirachai said to me, “Kent, the mega church isn’t the hope of the world.” I get what he is saying. In his country, Thailand, there are 342 people per square mile (By comparison Alaska is the least densely populated area on earth with 1.2 people per square mile). The Bangkok Metropolitan Area is home to at least 14,000,000 people. Last year it took me almost an hour to travel one block by car. The Christian hope in Thailand isn’t to get the masses into larger and larger congregations, but to assist in building life-giving relational communities in which the Christian life is lived openly, authentically and deeply. The larger the weekend congregation, the more responsibility there is upon the congregation to assist in developing these life-giving relational communities.
My friend and church research analyst, Jonathan Gainsbrugh, has stated emphatically, “The smaller the church becomes the bigger the church becomes.” We were chatting one day and Jonathan said, “Let’s have an MRI; a Muldoon Relationship Imaging.” From that day until now I have been seeking wisdom, not on the State of the Union, but on the state of the communion. Are the people under the ministry of MCA Church developing life-giving relational communities in which the person and work of Jesus is honored and the ministry of the Holy Spirit flourishes?
Chris Brown is a pastor at North Coast Church in Vista, California. I was enjoying a weekend worship experience there and was captivated by one of the sentences in his message. “With world-wide persecution increasing rapidly and with an anti-Christian sentiment exploding in the USA, the local congregations could easily be shut down. However, we are prepared for this coming situation because 85% of our congregation meets weekly in growth groups. If our large group meetings get closed, we are ready to meet in hundreds of homes each week.”
The hope of the world is each individual presenting the Gospel at the hubs of their life. Your platform for ministry may be the High School you attend, place of employment, the places you shop and YOUR HOME!
The potential of our homes for the Gospel is almost immeasurable. Real people with real lives hanging out in the comfort of one’s home has an effectiveness unparalleled. It communicates one of the essential truths of the Good News: your friend is not a project to be won or lost, but the most valuable creation on earth. God’s entire redemptive plan was to LIVE with us. It really is about life, both now and eternal.
Vital is the fact that the kitchen is somewhere close to where you and your friends are enjoying your home. Why is this so important? Check it out. Much of Jesus’ ministry included meals or food and drink miracles. To sit at table with God is a privilege grander than I can grasp. Matthew sees the glorious in this and proclaims, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Notice that Jesus is the Son of Man in this passage. He is born as we are born. Lives as we live. Laughs as we laugh. Eats and drinks as we do.
Like Jesus, do you receive people into your life? How long has it been since your friends have cozied up in your couch and talked with you heart to heart? Do you stand around the barbecue grill and chat for hours as the brisket’s flavors explode by the low and slow fire? Do you and your friends actually share life?
“I came that they may have life and have it abundant.” John 10:10