Next Monday evening, the local church of which I am a member will be having an open meeting of members and adherents to discuss “The Mission of the Church”
As part of a larger denomination, ie not an independent church, this has caused me some concern. Some will be aware that I am concerned that a significant number of people in the congregation do not understand the implications of their Christian faith in daily living. Even some in national leadership do not seem to understand those self-same implications.
In post-modern post-Christian Britain, what is the mission of a local church? I can see several answers and they are not mutually exclusive.
The first is to be a barracks teaching the faith to those who have come to believe, akin to a soldier’s basic training, so that they will be able to give an account of what they believe and why they believe it to those who have not yet come to a saving faith in Jesus. It could also act as a place for refresher training for those who have forgotten why they put their fith and trust in Jesus in the first place.
The second is to be a hospital for those who are battered and bruised by the outworkings of this world so that they can better cope with the brickbats that are thrown at them by the world, and the aggressive secularists within it. In this context it would be to support those who have been discouraged or worse in their walk with God, as well as those who find that trying to live a healthy life in their own strength is beyond them.
Thirdly, it could be a place where we expect people to come to learn about the Gospel, and we do not make any active attempts to communicate the Good News to those who do not come in.
Fourthly, it could follow the Methodist Church nationally, and some of the local preachers on the circuit and preach a false gospel, which is proud of its rebellion by ignoring those parts of Scripture that do not conform to the spirit of the age.
Fifthly, it could be an engine of mission to communicate the gospel in the local area, and if this is the case the church needs to think through what changes it needs to make from its current comfortable modus operandi to enable this to happen. In this case it needs to consider who it needs to reach, whether this be children, young adults, families with young children, older empty nesters, young single women, young single men or whatever demographic. If it takes this route, then it needs to consider how it will communicate the facts of the Faith to new converts, and how it will communicate to people who might well have other routines for filling evenings and weekends that have not yet included any thoughts of spending time worshipping God.