Thursday, October 11, 2012

Reaching Postmoderns By Moving Outside the Four Walls of the Church

Postmodern people often lament that while the church talks about serving its community, such service to the community is actually rarely seen outside the four walls of the church. To reach postmodern people, Christians will joyfully practice outside the church building what is preached inside the church building. 

They will become involved in community organizations and activities that address real community needs. As churches and individuals move beyond the walls of the church to serve, they will intentionally take the gospel with them. Good deeds alone will not transform a community. A community can only be transformed as individuals within the community repent of their sins and place their faith in Christ.

Therefore, missional activity can is only be considered successful if at some point people are called to repentance from sin and urged to place their faith in Jesus Christ. Daybreak Community Church of Colchester, Vermont, has reached many postmodern people in their community of 17,237 by sponsoring community activities that meet real needs the church’s members discover in the community. Since 2000, they have helped facilitate the annual Relay for Life event in their community, which raises funds and spreads awareness about cancer treatment. The church receives no direct benefit from sponsoring this event other than the goodwill of the community. Daybreak has also helped with an annual summer marathon sponsored by the town. Their duties for the marathon include picking up all the rubbish left behind by the onlookers. This may not sound like a spiritual investment in the community, but as the community has seen the values of the church lived out in real life, they have responded well. Many previously unchurched people now worship regularly at Daybreak, where they hear a clear presentation of the gospel. These people would not have had the opportunity to hear the gospel if the church had not ventured outside its walls.

New Life Community Church in Northfield, Vermont, population 5,791, participates in their community’s annual Labor Day celebration. While many other churches are selling pies and crafts to help fund various church functions, New Life sells lollipops to support the local Boy’s Club. The community has noticed that New Life is helping others instead of only benefiting itself. At the celebration, church members also distribute hundreds of Frisbees with the gospel printed on them. Like Daybreak Community Church, New Life’s members also help pick up rubbish after the two-day event is over. Also like Daybreak, the only benefit they receive from all this hard work is the goodwill of the community. But that goodwill can go a long way. In December of 2009, a small church in Northfield closed. The leaders of that congregation had been so impressed with the way New Life was taking the gospel to the community that they felt led to give their building to New Life. They previously met in the local library and in various homes, so New Life gladly accepted the building and within a year had already filled that building to capacity.

Every small town has a community event that needs a sponsor, a school that needs painting, or a park that needs improvement. When churches take on such projects, they gain the attention of postmodern people and engage them at a deeply philosophical level. But to reach these postmodern people for Christ, it is imperative that churches not shy away from proclaiming the gospel as they serve. It takes tact and common sense, but believers can eectively proclaim the gospel while serving others.

Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.


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