It would seem to me that a vast number of churches have bought into the attractional, come to us, model of church, whether intentionally or otherwise. And this has either been championed by leaders or embraced by leaders who have failed to see that such an approach might actually be a form of malaise within the church.
Of course, it’s easy to point the finger at larger churches.
Yet, there are just as many smaller churches led by equally faithful pastors who are, themselves, wondering why people are not COMING to their church on Sunday. I spoke with a leader of one such church quite recently, about this very issue.
And the sad reality is that, as Alan Hirsch puts it, “Our current system is perfectly designed to see the results we are currently achieving.”
So, the challenge for the church and its leaders, as I see it, is to change the system.
Bill Easum, a Church consultant from the US, notes that “following Jesus into the mission field is either impossible or extremely difficult for the vast majority of congregations in the Western world because of one thing: They have a systems story that will not allow them to take the first step out of the institution into the mission field, even though the mission field is just outside the door of the congregation.”
Changing the system means a shift away from a Christendom model, which could be largely identified as an institutional model of church – exemplified by the bishop as “prince in his diocese” – to a post-Christendom, missional model.
A writer who goes by the moniker of “Jonnyfun.E” captures the essence of the shift simply and concisely. He suggests that for the church to grow, we must change our order of priorities from:
Worship – Fellowship – Mission
Mission – Community – Worship
It’s hard to argue, but I would just add two further points
Firstly, fundamental to this shift are Christian leaders, irrespective of the context of their leadership, who are called to imitate (incarnate) the life and leadership of Jesus and are themselves willing to follow Jesus into the mission field.
Secondly, we must stop measuring Christian success solely by the 3 B’s (if at all) – buildings, bums on seats, and bucks in the bank. Rather, following Jesus into the mission field means putting discipleship and disciple-making (two different things) at the heart of church life and, indeed, as central to the life of every believer.
Otherwise, we’re in danger of seeing the church continue to be marginalised and deemed irrelevant and, thus, quite potentially slide into oblivion.