In 2006 Al Gore, the ex-vice president of the United States, created a documentary highlighting the global disaster that lay in store if the world’s governments failed to make it their mission to reduce global warming. He called it “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Without being an alarmist, the church may need to face its own inconvenient truth, this being that fewer and fewer people are finding the church an attractive place to be. Typically our knee-jerk reaction to this statement is to try to figure out clever ways in which to attract people into church. I wonder if we should rather be asking how we can get more of the Church into the community.
Alan J Roxburgh and M Scott Boren put it this way, “it’s not about how to make the church better, how to get more people to come to church, or how to turn a dying church around. It’s not about getting the church back to cultural respectability in a time when it has been marginalized…. This [missional] imagination turns most of our church practices on their head. It invites us to turn towards our neighbourhoods and communities, listening first to what is happening among people and learning to ask different questions about what God is up to in the neighborhood. Rather than the primary question being, ‘How do we attract people to what we are doing?’ it becomes, ‘What is God up to in this neighborhood?’ and “What are the ways we need to change in order to engage the people in our community who no longer consider church a part of their lives?’
We might have to get our hands a little dirty and it may become a little inconvenient. But just as Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that He knew lay before Him (Heb 12 vs1-2), so we need to live this inconvenient gospel to experience the joy of seeing people come to Christ.
As long as I have been at CityHill Church we seem to have been thwarting the trends. I suspect that this is because, as a Church, we keep our spiritual ears to the sky, are obedient, and willing to go on mission. We are willing to face inconvenient truths and act on them.
As a Church we find ourselves on the verge of a new, exciting and somewhat inconvenient mission. The mission of living the gospel beyond our church buildings and into our communities.
When John Piper was asked how to keep teens engaged in Church, he answered, “Whatever you do, do not try to entertain them as we cannot compete with the world, but rather take them on a mission. Show them suffering in the world and then give them a worldview that can make sense of it.”
I think this applies to everyone, not just teens. Truth operating in reality is what changes lives. Reality for many is a life in which the church is irrelevant, a life void of Christ. So how do we introduce a new reality into people’s lives, one in which Jesus, the truth, becomes the reality? Well, one way is to show the world the gospel in action. To show what Romans 12 vs. 9-21 looks like when lived out – loving each other, rejoicing in hope, blessing those that curse us, weeping with those that weep, associating with the lowly, living peaceably, showing hospitality. This passage of scripture calls us to feed our enemies when they are hungry and to give them a drink when they are thirsty; to overcome evil with good. It’s an inconvenient gospel, a tough message, a tough call. It is a message of little consequence if hidden within the walls of a Church building but one of eternal consequence if lived out in our communities. It’s what Jesus did as he cruised the neighbourhoods, telling stories, lending a helping hand, healing the sick and changing people’s lives.
Our mission is to get Jesus out of the church building and into the neighbourhood. An exciting thought and something I believe, as CityHill Church, we are ready to embrace.