by Peyton Jones: In the last Blog post we talked about COGs and catering your church plant to the community. But how do you find out what the community needs? I have a few suggestions.
MEETING WITH THE MAYOR
The easy way is to talk to the professionals. We met with the Mayor and asked her what the needs of the community were. Heck, pick up a newspaper. Have your team circle all of the needs in the city. Then, with a red marker have them circle the top two that they’d like to do something about. You’ve just pinpointed their passions. Once you’ve pinpointed somebody’s passions, their gifts are close behind them. There are far too many needs for you to reach, and you will have to select which ones you’re going to meet. Luckily for you, the Holy Spirit has already identified and targeted the needs for you, and equipped your team…if you’re listening.
Nehemiah did it before launching his rebuilding campaign in Jerusalem. Paul did it in Athens before preaching on Mars Hill. When overwhelmed with the task in front of him, the church planter puts on his combat boots and prays that God will give him every place that his foot falls as an inheritance for the Kingdom. It’s tantamount to dropping leaflets like America did in Vietnam saying, “there is about to be an attack here.” (my paraphrase). The reality is that you’re picking a fight with the enemy, and poking a spiritual finger in his chest. He laughs at all of our puny efforts, but he trembles when a team of believers hoofs the pavement with praise in their hearts, prayer on their lips, and a hunger in their eyes. (Use Benjamin’s blessing – wolf/blood)
Start going there. Start meeting there. Start making that community part of the rhythm of your day. As you do, you will form relationships. You will visit the same coffee house or pub and start to recognize the regulars. As you converse with them, ask them two questions: 1. what do you love about living here? 2. Whats the biggest challenge about living here? You will begin to gather key data about the community.
There is a lot of talk about being relevant. Like Iyego Montoya, I suspect that many people use that word a lot not knowing it doesn’t mean what they think it means. The word relevant comes from the word relate. Can we relate to people? When you read the gospels, you quickly realize that Jesus knew how to relate to people, and even more of a compliment to his witness, they could relate to him.
If we’re going to relate to people that means that we’re going to have to learn to talk to people. We often space ourselves out from people like they’re lepers. John’s gospel is the most evangelistic book of the New Testament. Have you ever noticed that it’s a collection of discussions between Jesus and people? The entire thing. What does that tell us about evangelism?
Sometimes I think that the church has always believed in drone strikes. For most of the history of military campaigns, armies have had to set foot onto enemy territory to take it. Nonetheless, the church sets up a base of operations and never leaves it. They hope that the enemy will simply walk in and surrender to it like it was a walk-in-enter. The drones aren’t coming.
When John Wesley and Whitefield rode the wave of the Holy Spirit during the Great Awakening, they established small groups throughout the country called “societies”. They were convinced that life change happened in circles, not in rows. They found conversions in the field, and discipleship in the living room. There were churches. Lots of them. But the churches weren’t reaching people, so Wesley and Whitefield went outside.
This took huge faith, and gumption. They had to exegete their culture. Whitefield went to the coal fields, because the miners worked seven days a week and couldn’t hear the gospel at church. The methodist preachers were soon down the mineshafts, “in the pits” taking church to the people. A mine seems almost built for a house of worship, and the revival spread.
Wesley originally thought it “a sin to preach in the fields” when he heard of Whitefield, but within a few months, he was preaching to crowds of 20,000 people. Our models often hold us back and keep the kingdom from expanding like the old wineskin that’s lost it’s ability to be flexible and therefore expand. In the Great Awakening, and in most times of revival, what God was doing happened OUTSIDE of the confine of the church walls. So did Jesus’s ministry. Did you realize that? He wasn’t found where religious people were. He didn’t have a church. The Son of God came and barely set foot inside the temple for three years. His ministry was OUTSIDE of the church. My first church plant was in a Starbucks. My second in in a public park. My third is getting ready to plant in a gas station in the inner city.
John Calvin noted:
“the Master did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do because he foresaw that this depended on the state of the time, and he did not deem one form suitable for all ages…because he has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation nad for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously cadmoodated to the customs of each nation and gea, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones.” Calvin Institutes p1,208 IV.10.30
In planting your church, keep in mind that the early church was planted in Jerusalem, but met “house to house and in the temple courts.” What most people consider “temple courts” is a big box with expensive speakers. I maintain that the temple was merely the city center, the place where the majority of people trafficked, and if it had been the temple of Zeus, the apostles would have continued to meet there. Temple courts is synonymous with “public space”, the watering holes, the proximity spaces, the market place, the cultural hub. The question is, are you willing to go there and set up shop? Or would you rather hunker down in the bunker?
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.