This chapter is about existing churches becoming missional. If a church is not reaching their community, they need to be willing to change if they want to reach their community. Some powerful challenges Stetzer lays out for these churches is this: They need “to care for the lost more than they care for their own comfort.” For those who are unwilling, he claims, “They have chosen their traditions over their children.” Ouch.
So how do we make these changes within an existing church? First, it starts with passion for God and His mission. Next, find a worship style that honors God and connects with the community. How do we do this?
Make a list of the fastest-growing, biblically faithful, and culturally engaged churches in the area, and go visit them. (In short, reconnaissance.)
Lead the church to experience different kinds of worship.
Bring it home and discuss it (particularly after you visit other churches.) Some questions to think about:
· What are these churches doing and why is it working?
· What is our church doing and why is it not working?
· What can we learn from these churches?
· What can we try in our church that we saw them doing?
The next key to revitalization is “Partnering with Believers to Reach the Disconnected in a Safe Place.” The idea here is that believers need to be engaged with unbelievers and the church needs to be a place where people can explore faith. While he recognizes it is debated, Ed believes, “The church is the best place for evangelism to occur” (p. 145). This comes when there is a culture of “invest and invite” within the congregation – people invite their friends. This is usually personally, but there can be broad awareness within the community through mailers, etc… so long as one understands it isn’t a one time shot.
Finally, revitalization comes with a plan to connect disconnected people in a faith process. It starts by engaging guests and making them feel comfortable. Next, they need to be connected, which means getting them into small groups. That’s tough, but there has to be a plan. One possibility is to have them meet on Sunday mornings before they end up moving into homes. Next is assimilating attenders. This means clarifying what it means to be a Jesus follower in membership classes and make sure they are following Jesus and committed to the church. Finally, members need to be discipled – learning first what they need to know (basic theology, basic habits) then, possibly, what they want to know (eschatology, etc…).
The Breaking the Code Challenge
1. Would you describe your church as a church with an evangelism strategy or a missional heart? Why?
2. Why is it important in today’s world to have a missional heart and not simply an evangelistic strategy?
3. Who are the people that can give you honest feedback from an outsider’s perspective?
4. What are your next steps for beginning a transitional process?