Venturing into the practical side of things, I’d like to suggest that a significant obstacle to moving the church out of the building is one of posture. My training in the pastoral arts leaned heavily on creating an illusion of all knowing. Like the wizard behind the curtain, we were expected to have every answer for every spiritually connected question, no matter how deep or mundane. It was assumed that Jesus was ultimately the answer to every cultural question and that answer could merely be communicated to those who came through the doors … and those who chose not to were simply lost. I once had a youth pastor on staff who told me that the students, even those within our own church body, were just lame if they didn’t come to his programming. In other words, “come to our stuff or we have no time for you”. This posture admittedly becomes not unlike the Pharisee when he stood alongside the tax collector. Our issue is that we assume that we know the questions they are asking and in turn we also know the answer … Jesus.
Step one: Listen
I would argue our posture should be one of simply listening. Listening until we actually hear the questions that our neighborhood is asking. It is answers to those questions that are really good news. In one of my previous neighborhoods one of the prevailing questions centered around how art and artists might be highlighted and encouraged in a neighborhood where the cost of living was eliminating their spaces to create. Good news in that instance was not simply “Jesus”. An answer was a church community willing to give a building to establish affordable studio spaces. Another answer was church members joining other neighbors and business owners in forming a monthly art walk, 12 years old and still going strong. Those answers coming from a church community were good news to a very skeptical neighborhood. That good news changed hard hearts. Those answers came from listening for the actual questions … from sitting still for awhile in the spaces that people inhabited … drinking coffee and beer. Those answers came from walking within the neighborhood instead of driving through it. Those answers came from shopping local, developing relationships, and a good deal of listening.
the other steps still to come