When I receive promotion pieces or e-mails advertising conferences and resources on assimilating people into the church, I think about the Borg on Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.” This may be unfair, but I wonder how ready people are to be assimilated. Does the very term threaten one’s individuality? Does this mean that the person will have to give up something and become less of what God created him or her to be in order to become part of the congregation?
What if we turned this around? In Organic Community, Joseph Myers suggests that we should ask the question, “How does the church assimilate itself into people’s lives?” The church will have a more robust ministry and will be more deeply invested in the larger community if it becomes part of believers’ everyday lives. Rather than trying to get unchurched people into the doors of the church so that they can be exposed to the truth of the Gospel, what if we took the Gospel into the world? Certainly this is a radical (and biblical) idea.
How can we do this? Several ways come to mind. First, we can help believers to develop their daily walk with God through personal Bible study, prayer, and the practice of other spiritual disciplines. Second, we can help them to be more responsible stewards of the resources (especially the financial resources) that God has place in their hands. This can involve something has simple as classes on budgeting, wise shopping, and the value of saving. Third, we need to support our members as they deal with family issues—couple communication and decision-making, raising children, providing care for family members with special needs, and caring for elders. Fourth, we can encourage them to keep their eyes open for ministry opportunities that they encounter in their daily walk and encourage them to take the time to become involved without feeling guilty because they have to give up doing something at the church building. Fifth, we can articulate a theology from the pulpit and in Bible teaching groups that helps each believer to see his or her work as a Christian vocation and the marketplace as an arena of God’s activity.
Basically, perhaps it is time for us to emphasize “go” as well as “come” activities.