Sunday, July 13, 2008

Why Do We Do What We Do? (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote a post about why we do what we do--as Christians, as a church--looking at Paul's teachings in 2 Corinthians 5-6. And I said, "Everything that we do at Pathway Community Church is about becoming a more effective reconciling community."

But this week, I want to break that down a little bit. I want to move from the abstract and theoretical to the concrete and practical. How are we a reconciling community? In what way do these things that we do help us to accomplish the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18)? There are lots of ways to "do church"--why do we do things this way?

In essence, this is a question about strategy. If we agree that every church and every individual ought to be about the business of using the gifts of the Spirit to serve, reaching out to unbelievers with the good news of Jesus, worshiping God in words and actions, loving one another in fellowship, and growing in maturity and Christ-likeness--if we agree that those are our basic functions--then what is our strategy for accomplishing them? How do these things work in our church? Why do we do things this way?

I spent some time last week thinking about each of these 5 basic functions of the church, trying to encapsulate our strategy in a single phrase, and here's what I came up with:

1. Love-Motivated Service
There are lots of potential motivations for serving--guilt, duty, obligation, need, recognition. But we want our service to be motivated by love. We want everyone who serves to recognize the way that they are serving others, and to be motivated by love for the others whom they serve. We also want people to love the service that they do (not to feel worn out and burdened down by it), and that happens when they serve according to the way that God has shaped them.

2. Relational Outreach
I think there's a tendency to view outreach from an event-oriented perspective. But outreach events do not constitute outreach in themselves. Really, they act as tools to assist those in our church who are developing relationships as one more relationship-building opportunity. Our outreach happens as we get close to people in relationships and invite them to a relationship not just with us, but with Christ as well.

3. Accessible Worship
Our worship services are not designed to "attract" unchurched people or to "bring people in." The only people who even know what our worship services are like are the ones who come to them. Rather, the services are designed to be intelligible and understandable to anyone who does come, whether they've never set foot inside a church in their lives, or if they've been a follower of Christ for 20 years.

4. Welcoming Community
As people come into our church, we want them not only to feel welcome, but to actually be welcomed--with open arms. We want people to know that this is a safe place, where they will be loved and supported in their pursuit of Christ, a place where they can be authentic, sharing their needs, their fears, their struggles, and their questions, along with their joys and hopes. We want people to be connected into a family.

5. Life-On-Life Discipleship
We believe that the best way to grow closer to Christ is to do it in community, in the middle of a process of sharing life with other people. There are exceptions, but in general it is very hard to grow significantly as a Christian without deep and sincere relationships with other Christians. As we share life together, we get to see how others deal with their problems in a biblical way, we experience others praying for us as we face our own, and we have a network of support in times of crisis. The Christian life is more caught than taught because it's not about a list of doctrines that have to be memorized--it's about living a life under the direction and leadership of Jesus.

This is why we do what we do:

  • "No one serves alone" so that we can build relationships, welcoming people into the community and providing them with a place that they can contribute and share according to how God has shaped them.
  • We print postcards so that we can have an easy way to invite our friends (relational outreach), providing them with all the information that they'll need to come and experience an accessible worship service and a welcoming community.
  • We have small groups that gather regularly for Bible study and fellowship so that each of us has a place where we can share life with other people who are on the same journey toward Christ-likeness that we are.
  • We plan our services in themed series so that we can connect the Bible with everyday life, making our services accessible for as many people as possible, and providing recurring "on-ramps" for unchurched people to come and hear God's message for their lives.

It's really about making room in our lives for other people at every stage of their spiritual journeys. If it's our goal as a church to look like Christ, we need to be "other-focused"--his life was all about others, and our lives must be too. So we'll be exploring these five strategies in depth over the next five weeks in this blog.

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