An interesting thing strikes me about the early church. Much of what they did was in very public places such as the city square, the marketplace, and the Temple. Early Christians did not have buildings, so they were out among the people, interacting in the everyday flow of life.
Those of us who are believers today need this same type of involvement. If we hope for our churches to become more missional, we need to get outside the walls and get to know our communities.
I had lunch with some friends in another city recently, and they decided to take me to (what we call in middle Tennessee) a “meat and three” restaurant. The place was not fancy, the food was good, and the people were friendly. While we were eating, one of my friends commented, “These folks are very different from those who come to our church on any given Sunday.” This was very perceptive. He noted that most of the people who attended their church were of a particular social and economic class; there was not a lot of diversity. The realization provided fresh insight about their church, who it reached, and possibilities for change.
We need those “Aha!” moments. Most of them will come only when we take ourselves into different, often unfamiliar, environments. We can drive a different route to work, eat at a new restaurant, or seek out invitations to various civic groups. Whatever we do, we must be intentional about getting outside of our normal routines to begin to understand what God is about in the world.
I believe that those of us who are church people are called to be both gathered and scattered. We gather to worship, learn, and encourage one another, but then we need to scatter around our community. When we do that—keeping our eyes, ears, and hearts open—we will start becoming more missional.
(This blog post is adapted from material in For Such a Time as This: Aligning Church and Leadership for Missional Ministry by Ircel Harrison. The book is available from Amazon.)