Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Meeting People Where They Are

Consultant Eddie Hammett recently published an article entitled “Traditional Churches Responding to Busy Lives: Discipling Busy Adults” in which he acknowledges the busyness of the 24/7 connected world in which we live and challenges the church to respond to this opportunity in new and creative ways.  One of the lessons he notes is, “Meeting people where they are rather than where we would like for them to be is a Biblical model that is tough to practice for many in their church culture.”

Hammett is calling us to do that which is uncomfortable but necessary.  Where do we need to meet people today in order to get a hearing for Christ and encourage them in their growth as disciples?

First, we need to meet people where they are spiritually.  “One size does not fit all” when it comes to spiritual formation.  We must be discerning about where people are in their spiritual development.  This means not only comprehending what they know but what they have experienced—both positively and negatively--in their spiritual pilgrimages. 

Second, we need to meet them where they are geographically.  Sacred space is not limited to the church buildings.  If God is everywhere, then God can be encountered anywhere.  The church must be more creative in meeting people on their “turf”—home, marketplace, workplace, playing field, coffee shop, etc.  Getting outside of our cloistered walls often makes us uncomfortable, but it stretches us as well and forces us to be creative.

Third, we need to meet people where they are developmentally. People have different life experiences that must be considered.  They come from varied family and educational backgrounds, they have encountered successes and failures, and they have experienced joys and losses.  In addition to this, people learn in different ways.  They even pray in different ways and respond to different approaches to studying the scriptures.  We must take this into effect to communicate the faith effectively.

Fourth, we must learn to meet where they are culturally.  When Paul went to the Areopagus to engage in discussion about “the unknown God,” he went with knowledge of the people he would encounter there.  They were unlike him in many ways, but he spoke their language, had read their poets, and had wrestled with their philosophy.  He met them where they were culturally and shared the Gospel in a way that they could understand and make a considered response.

All of these things will take us outside our comfort zones.  They are not easy to do but if we attempt them, we can really engage people in the Christian faith.

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