What if the church is changing?
What if in 10 years the church in America looks nothing like it has ever looked before?
When we felt called to start a new church, Kris and I became certain that God was calling us to a new type of church. We were not to do church as usual, and we were not to do church as we have always experienced. We honestly began to feel a burden on our spirits for the church in America and the future of the church. We began sensing that over the course of the next decade the church will have to change or it will die. (Reports and statistics of drops in church attendance and the loss of specific age groups, along with the current drop-out rate of pastors also support this notion.)
Now let me insert a little caveat here please:
I do not think the future of the church in America depends on me and Kris. (You can insert hysterical laughter here.) Obviously, there is very little that is unique to us or special about our ministry. And if, in fact, God is giving us a role to play in some new grand adventure that would happen to change the course of the church in America, the Bible shows that over and over again God usually asks the least equipped and weakest to take on the biggest challenges. So, technically this really wouldn’t bode well for me and Kris. 😉
Okay, caveat over.
Knowing we are not special snowflakes, we very much began feeling an urgency to start a church that was different. We didn’t really know anybody else doing it, but we were certain we were supposed to walk this route.
Interestingly enough, as we began walking the road God was leading us down, we began meeting person after person with the same calling and urgency in their hearts. We have met people from California to Florida to Colorado to Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio who have said to us, “We have felt God saying the exact.same.thing.”
The more I talked about our church and our vision for it, the more I began seeing that God was not just calling us to this new type of ministry, but God was raising up a new generation of church leaders who are likely to be starting churches all over the United States…leaders who have never talked to one another, but very much have the same heart, spirit and vision. We were not and are not alone in this vision.
So what does this church look like?
We hope our name reflects it well: Every Day Church.
We are a church that focuses on the every day. We are not a one day, Sunday type of church. In fact, we have scrapped the idea of having a Sunday morning service all together. As I have written on here before, Kris and I now spend our Sunday mornings at Bob Evans or we take drives through the community to pray for it. We relax and we look for ways to love those God brings across our path.
It is our hope that instead of constantly dumping into one day and time of the week, we will free ourselves, our church and our church members to use their gifts, talents, money and other resources to focus on the Mondays thru Saturdays. You see, so often when we find out a Christian has a gift, we recruit them for the use of the church specifically. You can sing? Great! Sing with us on our worship team. You are good with kids? Come and teach our Sunday school. You love working on financial plans? Join our board! We bring these people inside to work and serve those on the inside.
What if instead we released these people? You can sing? Great! Go share your gift with your community. You are good with kids? Go and help that single mom who is drowning under the weight of doing it all alone. You love working on financial plans? Take a job at a bank and help people figure out how to make better choices and find freedom financially in their lives.
What if we encouraged our pastors and our members to use what God has given them for the benefit of those outside of the church?
Same with the money. What if our money wasn’t tied up to pay for programs or building fees or (and this was hard for me personally to reconcile)…staff. What if money wasn’t used for coffee and bulletins and special decorations that we hope will make us relatable to culture… What if our money was used to put back into the community? What if we began asking our members, “Where is the need?” What if we began asking community leaders, “How can we make a difference?”
A lot of this is hard for me to write because I have loved the church my entire life. I grew up in a phenomenal church which had an amazing Sunday morning service and instilled the love of God deep within my soul. I have had the opportunity to learn from and work for a number of incredible pastors who are extremely gifted in what they do. They have a heart and passion for God, and they desire to see lives changed for the better. I in no way want to sound like I am chastising them, their churches or the ministries they are leading. Many of the people I respect most in ministry are continuing to do a phenomenal job and leading churches which have the typical Sunday morning service. I believe that model has been and can still be beneficial. Many churches are continuing in the vision God has given them because it IS reaching their communities. By all means, to these churches, continue on in the good work God has called you to.
What I am trying to explain (and have put off for so long because I fear I will not be able to get the words out accurately or my true heart across) is the new thing God is asking US to do and the reasons for which we believe we are called to do it.
Throughout the Bible, Jesus was often going into towns saying that the kingdom of God had come. It was in the here and now, and it was being given to people. The world had become polluted and damaged, it was broken and destroyed, and Jesus was telling people that he was here to redeem and restore. He was here to make it right and take his creation back. THAT is the good news of the Bible.
Do you know what the key is to those verses though? Jesus WENT from town to town and told people about it. Jesus SENT people out to go from town to town to heal people, give hope to people, to free people and to demonstrate to people what the kingdom of God looked like.Notice the words: went and sent. Jesus took the kingdom of God to people. What was the result? Healing was happening all over the land. Freedom was given all over the land. Redemption and hope was being poured out all over the land. God’s kingdom, the kingdom we were meant to live in from the very beginning of time, was being realized.
My goodness, that is still what God wants to do today. The kingdom of God is here and now. There is hope to be had, healing to be had, redemption to be had, reconciliation to be had, freedom to be had, but who knows this? WHO KNOWS THIS? The Christians who are sitting all together on Sunday morning celebrating something that they have.
But what about all those other people who are outside of those walls? What about those people who feel like they are not welcome in church, or who feel like they cannot enter church, or the people who literally cannot make it to church, or the ones who have to work on Sunday morning to make ends meet, who can’t fathom adding one more event to their schedule because they are already struggling to survive or who don’t know a Christian who is remotely anything like Jesus?
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE PEOPLE ON THE OUTSIDE? The truth is, we can make our churches as nice as we want, as relevant as we want, as beautiful as we want…we can invite people all we want into the church, but that doesn’t mean people will come into it. Do fish from the ocean jump into nice big clean fish tanks because it is so beautiful or because they were asked? No, they don’t and most of the time they have good reason for not wanting to be there. E
ver seen “Finding Nemo”?
The kingdom of God was not something that was given to a select few who found the right spot to go on a Sunday morning. The kingdom of God was something that was taken out and given away. It was given away every. single. day. It was given away to the people who were different and dirty and undeserving. It was given away to people who didn’t want it, who didn’t know they needed it, who didn’t have any hope left of change. It was given away despite being mocked and despite people trying to stop it. It was taken out and it was given away.
We do not want our church to hold anything in. We encourage our members to take their gifts and focus outward because when they sing in the community, offer child care to that single mom, use their financial gifts to help people find freedom, they are tangibly bringing the kingdom of God to people. They are opening doors to share with people who Jesus really is and what the good news is that he has to offer them today.
We want our church members (ourselves included) to focus on the Monday thru Saturday and pray that God opens our eyes to the encounters and people around us, not to get people in a seat or bring people into the fold, but because we believe God has something for people outside our church today. God has hope for people today, healing for people today, freedom for people today, encouragement for people today. The people we interact with and see every day do not need to wait for Sunday or for a pastor to share the good news of God’s kingdom with them. They don’t need to show up for a special event for their lives to be changed. They need their friends, their coworkers, the random strangers that pass through their lives on a random day to bring it to them. This will happen when we encourage and release our people to use their resources and place their focus outside of a Sunday morning event: focusing on what Jesus is doing in the every day.
Every Day Church brings God near to people by living like Jesus every day.
There’s so much more to share. How do we do this? What does our church tangibly look like? How can we be a church if we are not meeting on Sunday mornings? Do we disciple people and teach them what the Bible says or are we just all about the touchy-feely (feeley?)? 🙂 Stay tuned. I promise…it’s coming.