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The interplay between the church and the un-church has drawn significant interest in the fields of religion and theology. The role and importance of the church in contemporary life is a major topic of discussion in this conversation. Unfortunately, the church is becoming less relevant if people's lives in the US and the UK are any indication. As a result, the problem is redefining how the church and the non-church interact. This is accomplished through adapting the outreach strategy for the unchurched. Various scholars in theology have done their research on how the church can regain its relevance if not being outright vibrant again. Such scholars includes Tim Chester and Kevin DeYoung.
The Mission of the Church
The church ought to appreciate the importance of defining the mission of the church in order to make an informed decision. DeYoung and Gilbert lay a strong emphasis on the Great Commission scriptures. They define the mission of the church as follows:
The mission of the church is to go into the world and make disciples by declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit and gathering these disciples into churches, that they might worship and obey Jesus Christ now and in eternity to the glory of God the Father. (241).
The mission of the church should be carried out even in the face of hostility. The church should not be cowed by marginalization or even the persecution of its members. In addition to that, there has been great cultural changes that have taken place concerning the church. Such cultural characteristics may not be compatible with the ways of the church. In fact, they may bring antagonism between the church and culture. The church must do the relevant adaptation if it does not want to be eroded.
The mission of the church should be focused on the gospel. Consequently, allowing the influence of traditions is not only a weakness for the church but will be counter-productive in the long run. In addition to that, the mission of the church should not be subject to geographical restrictions. For example, a number of Christians think that the best way of becoming a missioner is taking the passport and travelling to another continent to do mission work. This is not necessarily the case. The mission of the churchy starts right where the Christian is- the neighborhood, the school. Or the place of work.
Steve Timmis and Tim Chester argue that the mission of the church should be that of making the hearts the church. In other words, it is not the buildings that matter but rather the Christians as individuals and their deeds. If the Christians are not following the ways of Christ, then they are going to undermine the mission of the church (99).
Reaching the Unchurch: Methodology
The post-Christian culture faces one major challenge- fewer people are attending the church leave alone being true Christians. The church is facing a big challenge in reaching out to the unchurch. This is because the methodology that used to work before is no longer working. For example, attending the churches in the UK and the US is going to show that the people who are playing musical instruments are older. This is because the younger generation is not keen on learning some instruments such as the piano in order to serve the church. In addition to that, the population of the people that is going to church is dwindling with time. Consequently, the solution lies in adaptation.
Reaching out to the unchurch entails meeting them where they are and not waiting for them at the church. A significant number of people out there do not have any bible literacy. In addition to that, they are not knowledgeable about the biblical Jesus. It is therefore the mission of the church to make sure that such people understand the bible and go ahead to apply it in their daily lives.
Chester and Timmis are writing from the context of a post-Christian British environment. They lament how the church has been pushed to the periphery of the Day to day life in the UK. They have one major prescription on this dilemma- shying away from the use of church programs to moving the church to where the people are. This contradicts the emphasis that the church puts in expanding the facilities on its ground.
Eight Ways to Reach to the Non-Church
Tim suggests eight main ways through which one can reach out to the non-church. To start with, it is important that one eats out with people who are not Christians. Thus, a Christian is supposed to flee the Christian sub-culture, move out of the comfort zone, and go to those who have not yet received the gospel. Thus, one can invite the neighbors and the workers for dinner. The main advantage with this is that it gives ample time to preach to the non-Christian about Christianity and to make His ways known. In addition to that, such environments are informal in nature thus giving the non-Christians a conducive environment to air their views.
Rather than driving, walking is recommended. The rationale behind this is that one is going to say hi to others and start a conversation. It is good to take part in activities that attract attention such as walking the dog. On a light note, the authors says that through walking, one is saving gas and also contributing to environmental consciousness.
When one becomes a regular in certain places, restaurants and groceries for instance, one becomes well known in those places. It therefore becomes easier to start a conversation about Christ. In addition to that, being a regular plays a critical role in building relationships. The higher the level of bonding, the higher the chance that o Christian is going to get the opportunity to preach to the non-church.
Having a hobby that you can share with non-Christians is another avenue for reaching out to the non-Christians. However, when one is involved in such hobbies, one should be careful not to look very different from the others.
Another important avenue for reaching out to the unchurch is the career environment. Talking to the fellow employees is going to draw them closer to Christianity. For example, one should be active in teams strengthens the friendship bond and ensures that there is an icebreaker that can create a good platform for a Christian to reach out to the non-church. It is vital that one prays for the fellow employees, and their families too. A Christian can schedule play dates with the children of the employees that can be of help in drawing them closer to Christ.
Volunteering is the practice of giving your service to others. Voluntary service is not confined to giving of material possessions. Rather, it includes the time that one can give as well as intellectual input. If one takes one time a month giving time to others, it creates a fertile environment where the gospel of Christ can be preached. It should be noted that volunteering is a God’s principle in itself. The requirement that one should give to the others as far as one can. In addition to that, every Christian should preach through deeds.
Various cities have various events that take place at least on weekends. Most people prefer being at home taking part in home leisure activities such as watching TV. Whereas there is nothing wrong with this, it robs a Christian of an opportunity to interact with others. If one took part in city activities, cultural events for instance, then there is an opportunity for reaching out to the non-church.
Lastly, assisting the neighbors in various activities offer an ideal avenue for reaching out to the unchurch. These includes activities such as weeding and fixing the car. The advantage with this is that it helps in demystifying the neighborhood and the people are not stranger to each other. This is ideal for preaching to the non-church.
Kevin Deyoung: Definition of the True Church
Kevin Deyoung downplays the emphasis on the meetings that usually takes place on Sunday mornings. On the contrary, his prescription of the true church is being together and doing things together. In other words, he advocates for a close community. In addition to that, DeYoung calls for a more aggressive engagement to the greater neighborhood (65). Through preaching to the neighborhood, one is not going to incur many expenses and it is time conscious too. Moreover, a Christian is going to better understand the habits and characters of people living in the neighborhood.
The true church is not content about the buildings and the programs. In particular, Steve Timmis and Tim Chester in their book are not offering an apologia for a growing church model. On the contrary, the duo are conservative Christians who advocate for old fashioned methods of preaching the gospel- as old fashioned as 2000 years ago. It should be noted that the early church was highly conservative in nature and had very strict rules that it adhered to. It is therefore not surprising that the church was able to record a high rate of conversion.
As the church became central to the modern life, churches started having a strong emphasis to providing the best products pertaining to the Sunday service. Notably, there are churches which have laid a great focus on fundraisings, sometimes at the expense of the gospel. Unfortunately, the people are not coming to the church despite the strong investment. Therefore, it is inconsequential to continue expanding on the products of offering the Sunday services. It is therefore prudent to divert that attention to moving to the community and engaging it first hand in order to realize optimal outcomes. The ethos of the everyday church should not be embedded in the specific structures that the church has developed. Rather, There should be the infusion of the daily lives with the life of the church.
Just like the 1st century church, the current church is ill at ease with the prevailing culture. Consequently, the Christians will constantly be put to question about their lifestyle if not outright persecution. It is not uncommon to find Christians being discriminated on the basis of their faith. Sometimes, they are not perceived to fit in careers such as politics. This is because such careers can have certain moral implications that can negatively affect the Christian.
Pastoring forms a major component of the true church. In the doctrine of the true church, the title pastor is not a preserve of the church. Rather, everyone has a responsibility to pastor others. This is where the question of being responsible comes in. Others are going to judge the Christian as the guardian of the gospel. In this regard, pastoring can take any of the following forms:
-Pastoring each other with in the day to day life
-Pastoring each other at the community level.
-Pastoring each other in the entire life
-Pastoring each other through grace
-Pastoring each other through good news
The true church is surprised by various events in recent history. These include legislation that is not sensitive to Christianity, poor representation of Christians through the media, and self-proclamation of atheism.
The Christian should take note of the similarity between the modern Christian environment and the Christians who were under Peter. That time, Christians faced marginalization, and so is today. As a response, Christians are supposed to live a different life and make their deeds known among other people. For the bible says,
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”
(1 Pet. 2:11–12)
The Scriptural Interpretation of Acts, John, and Ephesians
There is a lot of similarities between the gospels of Acts, John, and Ephesians with the context in which the three others write their works. Take for instance the book of Acts and its approach to the mission work. There is a great consensus among bible scholars that the book of Acts was written by Luke who was a physician and the sole gentile bible author. Though this is not mentioned in the book of Acts, Emperor Nero (64), had embarked on the persecution of Christianity. Thus, the book is written at a time when Christianity was under siege from powerful external sources who were too willing to eliminate it.
Luke gives a narrative of how the church was able to spread its tentacles from Jerusalem all the way to Rome albeit the many challenges that the early Christians experienced. Luke emphasizes the importance of faith in driving the gospel agenda. In addition to that, he gives the power of prayer a lot of prominence. Similarly, the modern Christian will not be able to reach out to the non-church without prayers.
By the time the book of Acts was written, there was a lot of political influence on the lives of Christians. For example, some Christians were hoping for a political independence from the yokes of oppression. Contrary to their expectations, the book does not lay its focus on politics but rather on spirituality.
Luke goes ahead to demonstrate that through seeking the help of God, then the life of a Christian as a missioner becomes easier (DeYoung 44). This is because it is written:
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.
In Ephesians, Paul was facing a big challenge in being a missioner. He had to have a spirited mission in order to convert the gentiles. It should be noted that by then, the gospel was not destined to the gentiles but rather to the Jews. However, the gentiles who were willing to embrace the gospel were included.
Paul had to devise ways through which he would penetrate the souls of the gentiles and convert them to Christ. One of such ways was through living a life of righteousness. Being righteous was critical in that it made the Christians live a life of example. If they were to make the others followers of Christ, they had to be righteous in their own lives.
The book of John offers a repetitive theme in the book that the disciples are mandated to go all over the world and preach the good news so that “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The main aim of the book of John is to make a representation of Jesus Christ as the messiah who is going to liberate the world. Probably, when John was writing the book, Jerusalem was under siege due to the authority of the Romans. It was therefore not an easy time to be a missioner.
The books of Acts, John, and Ephesians lay a strong emphasis on disciple making. In other words, it is the mission of the church to mold disciples. Closely connected to this is the mandate of teaching which is effected through sharing of information.
A significant number of principles are not option (Chester 87). This is because they are biblical in nature. Therefore, it is not the choice of a Christian to follow some and leave others. Each person has a responsibility to follow or the God’s commandments.
Quite a number of churches have not yet seen the cultural shift that the book is discussing. In addition to that, the church physical facilities and the church programs continue to play a critical role in the modern church. In this regard, the church is not only a spiritual solution but an institution that takes care of the needy as well.
In Britain, the gap between the rich and the poor is not as big as compared to the USA. In this case, the US finds itself with a significant number of poor people, the homeless for instance, that are not cared for by the government. The US is a country that is based on immigration. The UK has far much fewer immigrants compared to the US. Such immigrants tend to assume lower social status positions due to the inherent weaknesses that they face, not understanding English for instance. In such cases, it is the church which welcomes the poor, gives them basic needs in their physical facilities, and gives them other social welfare benefits.
The church in Africa may not be under threat as the church in the US and the UK may be. However, the role of the physical buildings and the programs cannot be underestimated. Prominent leaders in the African continent give testimonies of the difficulty they faced in the early years of their education. One of the things that they keep on mentioning is that they attended a mission school.
The two books are a great resource for Christians to adopt a new paradigm to the missions’ field. They are a good attempt in explaining the most effective ways of making an informed attempt of making an impact in the field. Accomplishing the target of being a productive missioner is not going to come on a silver platter. Rather, it will require a lot of effort. Overall, with the right information, teamwork, will, and hard work, the mission of the church will be achieved in a high impact way.
Chester Tim. Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission. Crossway, 2012.
DeYoung, Kevin. What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom,
and the Great Commission. Crossway, 2011.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Zondervan, 1998.
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