Repositioning the Church to reach the lost
From Scattered Servants by Alan Scott
Here's an abridged extract from an excellent book, Scattered Servants by Alan Scott, ex-leader of Causeway Coast Vineyard, Northern Ireland and now senior pastor of Vineyard Church, Anaheim.
His eyes conveyed the yearning in his heart. Yet another young leader yearning for greater evangelistic potency in his community, inwardly longing for an expansive heart to grip his church. His recent church plant had already gathered people, yet the words were unspoken; "I don't want to put on better services. I don't want to be the new trendy church for disillusioned believers. I want the presence and power of God to mark us and everything we do."
Later that day, another leader. His theory sound... get the church right, create better environments, people will bring their friends and sooner or later things will change. Sadly, they won't. The pastor loved his church but he did not love the city enough to upset his church.
If we are to reach our cities, we must reposition our churches. It's easier to attend a church that gathers lost people than become a people who alter communities. Yet God is not sending lost people into church; He sends the church out into the world. Our cities long for life, and to reach them we have to reposition our churches.
An illustration of the relentless missional nature of God is Luke 15 - the house was turned upside down searching for the lost coin. Everything was subject to repositioning in order to find the owner's treasure. Also Acts - we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
The first step for Causeway Coast Vineyard was to examine every aspect of services and lifestyles and reordered them to include outsiders. All of the services were redesigned with guests in mind - where people could encounter God without unnecessary obstacles. [The changes are listed in the book].
An analogy given is "Imagine you invited guests to your home for a meal. You would ask what they liked to eat. You prepare well simply as an courtesy and honour for them. You intentionally limit your freedom and level of comfort...."
As a result of Step 1, they saw many people come to their church and come to faith which gave them perceived success but this was not making them a missional people. They were not so much an Acts 2 community but a church becoming better at creating a friendly atmosphere. It was clear they were going to miss His promise - that if they would go after the lost, He would look after the church.
He was asking them to get insiders out - everyone empowered so that they could carry the kingdom everywhere. Moving from attractional mode and multiplication of gathered environments to a movement of sent people. A calling to multiply, create and sustain a missional culture - bringing more and more life to their city. A culture where people were intentional about leading people to God in every environment. Everyone, everywhere, every day expressing their life in a way that led others into life.
That led to step 2 - making every ministry missional.
If a ministry did not connect with the unchurched community, the leaders had a responsibility to close it. Every environment was infused with a commitment to the outsider. It meant the entire church was on mission. It did not matter if the ministry seems successful, appealing, the next big thing, pastoral; if it did not connect with the lost, they do not do it. An example was the Sunday school which became a session in a local school of Friday afternoon. At the end of a year, they had more kids attend that session than Sunday morning for church kids...then great things started to happen.
Stories started to emerge of the kingdom breaking out among people and everytime they disrupted the church community to show up in the wider community, the favour of God intensified.
As Rick Warren says, "A church is measured by its sending capacity, not its seating capacity." This book has many inspiring stories of what happens when people are released to bring life whereever they are to entire cities.
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