Now, of course, every apparent ministry failure becomes an immediately handy stick to beat ‘the church’ with.
That’s no part of any of our intentions here, right? Quite the reverse.
It’s the opposition – the teachers of the law – that are standing all around the disciples there in Mark 9 with the crowd. And the language Mark records seems to indicate a situation of some considerable tension.
Church not delivering on what we think it’s been offering
These people thought ‘the church’ to be offering something it wasn’t delivering, and we know in OUR time how powerfully disappointing that is to insiders. (Yes, INsiders … the crowd here … the outsiders and ‘hostiles’ expect this to be the situation).
The new priority of reaching the de-churched
When I set out in the ministry the big aim (or task) was believed to be reaching the unchurched. Perhaps then, it was.
Now, there’s a sense in which ‘reaching the de-churched’ can become the new ministry growth industry, the way ‘church planting’ and a lot of stuff before that did … but just Google ‘dechurched’ when you get a minute. If a little late, some folks are starting to catch on to an idea that surely should draw some attention?
As a taster I found this from Boyce Bowden who makes reaching de-churched folks his ministry in Oklahoma.
Here are his top 7 tips …
Be faithful to the Great Commission. “Even though they have left the church and have no intention of going back, and even though they may have given up on God, de-churched people are still God’s children and God still loves them. Jesus calls to share God’s love with all people — including the de-churched. Don’t look down your nose at them.”
Be trustworthy. Many de-churched people left the church because they lost trust in it. Let them see by the way you relate to them, that they can trust you.
Connect with de-churched people through interests you have in common with them. Any interests you have that de-churched persons have can help you get acquainted and build relationships.
Lead with love, not with judgment. When the time is right, share with them how God has transformed your life.”
Develop ministries that de-churched people find relevant. Focus on their needs and interests. For example, if they don’t feel comfortable in a formal worship service held in the sanctuary on Sunday morning, offer a service somewhere else at some other time.
Use social media to reach the de-churched. “If you are not using social media, you are missing one of the cheapest and most productive ways of reaching people. It spreads like crazy,” Hale says. He has about 1000 friends on Facebook —hundreds are bikers. He frequently posts down-to-earth reflections that inspire readers. Response has been enthusiastic.
Don’t expect overnight miracles. “It takes time for people who have lost trust in the church to trust the church again,” Hale concludes. “Be patient. Let God work through you and leave the results in God’s hands.”
In Mark 9 Jesus does all that except the last one here … and more … because He doesn’t just expect overnight miracles of course. He does them. On the spot.
(There’s a thought … aren’t de-churched people HELPED when we see clear answers to prayer? Then perhaps we could be PRAYING more CLEARLY?)
But I think there’s something even more interesting than that here …
De-churched people are really hungry for JESUS!
Yes, they are FEARFUL in this context … but they WANT Him.
And that’s so often the way it seems with the de-churched.
Maybe you would say ‘Yes Jesus is great, but church isn’t?’ And instinctively I’d get defensive and ask: ‘What did you expect? Look at the crew it’s composed of!’
But there’s clearly much more to this than that.
The de-churched may be ever so disillusioned with ‘Church’, but people still want to come running to Jesus.
This is happening all over Wales
I sat in a slightly sad dairy sale in Carmarthen this week. TB and low milk prices seem to have taken their toll and some beautiful cattle were being sold off for less than my eye said they were worth … and I sat alongside a believing farmer.
The day was a bit sad because of the state of the industry, and there wasn’t much joy at the ring-side. But my friend was joyful and encouraged in his faith. As he sat and encouraged himself on that day, he turned and spoke to me (over the auctioneer) saying he sees the Kingdom of God is clearly growing, but it’s all happening outside the churches.
Now he was talking specifically of farm meetings were people gather for worship, prayer and (in the best) Bible … where anyone can speak, and where Ministers generally don’t come, but if they do their role is limited to gently contributing truth and gently, lovingly trying to steer folks away from any previously held error … with only such ‘authority’ as their words carry from God as they speak.
It’s not ‘Organised’ but ‘DISorganised religion’, and it’s something our churches don’t prepare ‘clergy’ to deal with!
Here’s the sort of thinking behind the relative success of these meetings: ‘Keep your church … but I’ll come running to Jesus!’
How on EARTH has ‘Church’ got into this mess?
What on EARTH (then) do we think we’ve been doing in ‘Church’, to have got into a situation like this?!
In the context we live in the sad truth is this: ‘Church’ has damagingly poisoned so many.
The counter-balancing ‘joy truth’ on the other hand is this: the Lord Jesus retains His appeal.
In the context where the disciples’ ministry fell short of all expectations:
“When the whole crowd saw him, they were amazed and ran at once and greeted him.”
We need to learn to do the one (Jesus) INSIDE the other (this ‘thing’ we call church).
… unless YOU know some other way to figure it?!