Thing are being stirred up in central MN, and multiple conversations are revolving around three categories: mission, discipleship, and the gospel. We hear people concerned about things like; What really IS the mission of the church? What SHOULD be our mission? Where do we go to get the basic mission that Jesus gave His church? How can we see the church become the people of God that He designed it to be?
Being a math teacher with an degree and emphasis in statistics, I love looking at the objectivity of current church demographics. By most major studies and research, the contemporary church growth model, that is now being called into question in the west, can only reach a maximum of 40 percent of the American population.
“This is a problem because 95 percent of American churches are using a model that, even if successful, will reach less than half the population,” said Alan Hirsch, an internationally recognized missiologist and founding director of Forge Mission Training Network.
Most churches target the 40 percent of the population that’s within the cultural distance of the church- these ‘attractional’ churches that have more of an external focus and cultural relevance will, again, only work for 40 percent of the American population. And after a few years of coming to Christ, most people are socialized out of their context and into the context of the church, removing them from influencing unbelievers.
That leaves 60 percent of the population that the church is not reaching.
This leaves a large gap for the majority of our population who is now largely identified as ‘nones’- people who claim no religious affiliation in their census polls. This is both a problem and wonderful opportunity for us today. It is a problem because if we are simply attractional churches (evangelism primarily relying on worship services or events) we have, as Alan Hirsch put it, “called all our eggs are in one basket,” said Hirsch. “At any given point and time to resolve the missional challenges in which we face we only have a variation of one model.”
Hirsch cited Einstein’s famous quote, “Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them,” and called on church leaders to use their imagination.
“Many in our population are increasingly in isolation from us and we have to take the message to them,” said the missiologist, born in South Africa to a Jewish family.
To illustrate his point about the 40 and 60 percent, he used the business strategies of Red Ocean and Blue Ocean. The Red Ocean is highly competitive space where competitors have to compete for the same market. On the other hand, the Blue Ocean Strategy is one where you innovate and create new demand in an uncontested market space.
American churches are overwhelmingly going after the same market, the 40 percent, leaving the larger 60 percent and increasing unreached, he said. But American churches are capable of being both attractional churches and missional churches. Church can exist inside of a large worship service, and church can exist inside of a smaller expression of believers living life together.
Church, he stressed, comes out of mission, not the other way around. “We need to plant the Gospel and let church come out of that.”
Our passion in central MN to do just that. Instead of church-planting, we are gospel-planting. Instead of inviting people to a service, we are inviting people first into discipleship. Instead of gathering people to consume religious goods and services offered up on a sunday morning bulletin buffet, we are gathering people to a community of friends offering real relationships of care and challenge to grow.
So what practically does that look like in a central MN city like Sauk Centre, Albany, or even the metro of St Cloud? Again we look for ways to simply show and share the gospel of Jesus Christ to people who are willing to listen. In coffee shops, ballgames, working out at the gym, working and playing…we have opportunities to be loving and bold in the power of the Holy Spirit. The creation, fall, redemption, and restoration of God’s Gospel story needs to be always on our hearts, minds and lips so we can overflow that in natural and practical ways to others. As people respond with interest and some are wanting to discover more about following Jesus, we invite them into our Missional Community.
A Missional Community is a group of 20 to 50 people who exist, in Christian community, to reach either a particular neighborhood or network of relationships. With a strong value on life together, the group has the expressed intention of seeing those they are in relationship with choose to start following Jesus through this more flexible and locally incarnated expression of the church. They exist to bring heaven to the particular slice of earth they believe God has given them to bless. The result is usually the growth and multiplication of more Missional Communities. These MCs are networked within a larger church community allowing for both a scattered and gathered church. These mid-sized communities, led by laity, are lightweight and low maintenance and most often meet regularly in their missional context. Each MC and its shepherding leaders attend to the three dimensions of life that Jesus himself attended to: Time with God (worship, prayer, scripture, teaching, giving thanks, etc), time with the body of believers building a vibrant and caring community, and time with those who dont know Jesus yet.
If you have an interest to hear more about our passion for a network of church families on mission together, please click here to see our vision prezi for our ‘good seed collective’. If you have a heart to learn from some of the leaders we are learning from, we recommend Mike Breen, Alan Hirsch, Jeff Vanderstelt, and a passed-on saint Roland Allen.
If youd like to connect with us to hear more about our apostolic team forming for the city of St Cloud, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jeff at 320-760-5286. Thank you for praying these next two months as we look for Philippian partners who want to team up to plant the gospel, and bring discipleship back into the heart of missional church.