Monday, September 8, 2008

Putting It All Together

Now that we've looked at Love-Motivated Service, Relational Outreach, Accessible Worship, Connecting Community, and Life-On-Life Discipleship each in detail, I want to come back out to the big picture once again. Why do we do what we do?

I think understanding this question and its answer are very important--crucial, even--to being an involved, invested, contributing, supportive member of Pathway Community Church. If we don't "get" what's going on here, we end up with lots of questions and perhaps even doubts about whether our strategies are the right ones for us to adopt.

Let's consider our mission--meeting people where they are on their spiritual journeys and leading them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. That's why we exist. But how do we do that? What specifically do we do to accomplish that mission? Let's take it from the perspective of the people we're trying to reach--Northwest Nick and Nichole.

Northwest Nick commutes every day to work. He gets home at night. His home is his castle. He closes and locks the door, turns on Monday night football, sits down to watch it as he eats dinner. What if we sent somebody to his house—a stranger—at night and knock on his door, right in the middle of his meal and have this stranger say, “Come to church with a bunch of people you’ve never met before.” Would that reach Northwest Nick?

Northwest Nick & Nichole listen to contemporary music, so we want to use music that people understand, that their ears can relate to. They prefer the casual and the informal over the formal. That’s why I don’t dress up. I don’t wear a suit except at weddings and funerals. In fact, on Sundays, I often wear jeans, just like everybody else. Northwest Nick & Nichole don’t want to feel out of place by the way they dress, so we try to make them feel comfortable. They’re overextended in both time and money. That’s Northwest Nick & Nichole.

So how are they going to find Jesus? Do Northwest Nick and Nichole listen to Family Life Radio? No way! Do they watch Christian TV? Nope.

Northwest Nick gets to hear about Jesus by somebody getting close to him and becoming his friend. Somebody says, “Hey, Nick! You’ve gotta come to this church. It’s incredible! The pastor doesn’t wear a robe. You don’t have to wear a suit. The pastor doesn’t even wear a tie! They tell jokes. And the music isn’t hymns; it’s like contemporary pop music. The messages aren’t like ‘Who is the Beast in Revelation?’ It’s like ‘How Do I Handle Financial Stress in my Life?’ You’re not going to believe this church. Come on, Nick!” When people find good news, they tell it.

So how do we make that happen? We could all just develop authentic relationships with our neighbors, coworkers, family members, and friends--and we certainly encourage you to do that--but what we're finding is that most of us are either unwilling or just don't know how to do that. So we provide avenues for those relationships to develop through Love-Motivated Service. When you serve someone out of love for them and for God, it tears down walls of cynicism and makes them wonder what is behind our actions.

It opens up the door to begin a relationship with them, and help them begin to establish a connection to the church. It gives us the opportunity to talk about Jesus, what he's done for us, and how it's our goal to be people who look like him. In other words, love-motivated service paves the way for Relational Outreach, which draws people into our church. Most of the time, one of the first ways a person begins to explore this Jesus-thing is by deciding to come to a service on Sunday morning.

If we have Northwest Nick & Nichole in our service, then we'd better make sure that we have Accessible Worship. Because if they go to a church, they might be worried about being conspicuous--this is unfamiliar territory for them. Everyone's got the hymnbooks. They’re singing. They don’t know the words. They’re not singing, and everybody knows they’re not singing. And they know everybody knows they're not singing because they’re all looking at them. They feel very put on the spot. That’s why visitors go to the back. They don’t want to have a spotlight shining on them.

We don’t have a thousand people here, but we still want to create the environment where people can come and hide in the crowd. We welcome that. It’s ok. We want them to come in, sit down, get their feet wet, listen for a while, check it out, consider the claims of Christ. We don’t embarrass people before they become believers. We’re just glad whenever anyone is here for any reason. Northwest Nick is probably skeptical of organized religion. “I don’t mind Jesus and God. I just don’t like organized religion.” That’s great, come to Pathway. We’re disorganized religion.

Once they've decided that they want to keep coming, at least long enough to keep on considering what's being presented, then it's important that we get them plugged into a Connecting Community. We do this through helping them find a small group that will fit their schedule and interests, and by finding ways that they can serve and contribute on a ministry team that fits how God has shaped them.

Both of these connections will help them grow through Life-On-Life Discipleship because they're interacting with other believers who will teach them through their lives, their attitudes, their actions, and their words what it means to be a fully devoted follower of Christ.

This is a very attractive process for Northwest Nick and Nichole because it proceeds at their pace and with their consent and their involvement. It's respectful, personal, and gradual--we don't expect them to be mature Christians the first week they walk in our doors. We treat them with love, concern, care, and compassion as we encourage them to keep taking steps in their spiritual journeys, but it's up to them to take the steps. We don't force anything on people--they come to Christ through their own decisions, not through pressure, manipulation, or coersion.

Next week, I'll be telling you about some real people at Pathway who have found this process to be exactly what they needed to come to Christ. We're going to put faces on Northwest Nick and Nichole.

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