Recently someone sent me an intriguing article called “Staffing for Survival” aimed at people in churches. The premise of the article is that the church is dying and the way we’ve been doing church is mostly to blame. What way is that? It is called the attractional model and basically it has created the church to be a purveyor of services to “consumeristic” America. We create programs (staffed by paid church workers) that “attract” people to our church. The church grows, the programs get lauded, and all is hunky dory.
But something has changed in recent years and the church is no longer surviving by being attractional. See the whole attractional model was flawed at the outset because it created a ‘world within the world.’ At some level we thought the church should exist outside of the culture it existed.
The writer of the article states, “Someone on your church staff (in addition to your pastor) needs to wake up every morning thinking about how to engage your church with your community and world. Someone must be charged with linking the individual gifts, talents and passions of your congregation with the needs of the community you live in. If you do not pay attention to this, your church will die. Sounds dramatic, but I believe it is true. Slowly, but inevitably, if you fail to practice the Great Commission in your ZIP code, you will cease to exist.”
Somewhere way back in the attractional church model, we aimed to create dynamic centers of worship in our community but as far as service to the world? If we were lucky, our church had someone on staff that told us to pray for the missionaries in far off countries that we had seldom heard of or raise money for a service project. But we stopped believing that our mission was to change the lives of needy and hurting people that were right outside our door.
The solution? We need to radically alter how we view church. Church isn’t about somewhere we go once a week, but it is the people of God that are charged with shaping the world around us. Jesus preached more about the Kingdom of God than any other topic. Why? Because to Jesus, once you heard the good news about God’s love for us, our job as His followers was to take that message to our neighbors. If we don’t love God through loving our neighbors, we have missed the heart of Christ’s gospel. To often in Western Christianity, we make it all about “Jesus and Me.” “How is your walk?” we ask. “How are your quiet times?” we inquire. But what did Jesus ask? Have you fed the poor? Have you cared for the sick? Have you looked after the least of these? ‘As you love the needy in your zip code,’ Jesus says, ‘you will be loving Me.’
Where do we start? Start by praying Jesus would give you eyes for your neighbors who are hurting. Carry some food in your car you can give to people that are homeless. Volunteer once a month in service to those that need it. Start by seeing your role as a Christ follower as someone charged with living out the commands of Jesus in your zip code.