Replanting a Church: Advice from the Church Doctor, Part 3

I’m blogging through an an article by Kent R. Hunter, with Church Doctor Ministries.

In observing churches that are effective at reaching unchurched people, we have identified at least 10 strategies.

Churches in previous decades used strategies to invite people to the church building. In a secular world, the key is to change your definition of church from a facility to a community in ministry all week, beyond worship. On this mission field, the primary mission is what happens during the week, away from the institution, through relationships that already exist. The missional potential of your church is not reflective of the facilities or programs, but the unchurched relationships that already exist among the members.

1. Add a “go” strategy to your church’s “y’all come” strategy. The Great Commission clearly says, “Go” make disciples. This implies going to your target audience. Most churches encourage members to invite others to a worship service (or spaghetti dinner). The key to reaching unchurched people is to meet them where they are.

2. Teach church members to see themselves as missionaries of the church—not participants on a committee or board, or in a program. Churches effectively reaching unchurched people reflect a higher percentage of members who look in the mirror and see a missionary to the American mission field.

3. Train church members to identify events and signs when the unchurched may be receptive to the gospel. Events include a birth or death in the family, relocation, job change, chronic illness, recovery from chronic illness, extraordinary challenges, stress, the collapse of Wall Street, recession, and other major issues that capture people’s attention.

Signs of receptivity include—in the context of relationship—questions asked about God, conversations about faith or spirituality, peace, joy, meaning of life, questions about death, illness, and comments about your faith journey.

4. Encourage members to spontaneously share their story of faith. The best story of faith is an unrehearsed, unpolished, transparent, honest answer to the question, “What has God done in your life recently?” The story of faith is best shared when it is relevant to a conversation initiated by an unchurched person with whom you have an established relationship.

5. Move the majority of ministry and fellowship activities to neutral sites in the community. The work of the church must increasingly move from the facilities that appear as sacred, foreign monuments and into the marketplace of life, where unchurched people live and interact.

6. Give church activities a missional perspective. For example, if your church hosts fund-raising projects for missionaries, ask your members to purchase tickets to invite their friends at no cost.

7. Challenge members to develop a list of unchurched friends, relatives, neighbors, and people with whom they work or go to school who live within the ministry reach of your congregation. Ask members to post the list in a place they will see it every day—perhaps the bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Ask them to pray every day for an opportunity to be a missionary.

8. Train members to see that their primary sphere of ministry is their workplace, neighborhood, school, sports club—wherever they develop relationships. This demonstrates their primary sphere of ministry is not on a church board, committee, or serving in a program for members.

9. Gather members together in “missional clusters.” For example, a cluster I have attended in England is called Radiate. Everyone in Radiate works in the medical community: physicians, nurses, pharmacists, clerks at pharmacies, medical secretaries, those who work in a medical supply warehouse, and janitors at the hospital. The mission of Radiate is to reach people for Christ in the medical community. Radiate meets regularly for fellowship activities. It is to these events, organized as backyard barbecues, a dinner at a restaurant, or a picnic in a park—all neutral community sites—that Radiate members invite unchurched, but receptive, friends. The Christians share what God has done in their lives lately. The cluster is a “middle step,” relational platform for the unchurched person who is very likely not ready to make the huge leap to enter a church.

10. Start worship service extensions in theaters, bars, hotel meeting rooms, private rented rooms at restaurants, funeral homes, and other neutral community sites. Use video venue technology to bring the message. Provide support through members who have the missionary mentality and recognize this as an extension of the church.

Move from Institution to Relationship

Churches in previous decades used strategies to invite people to the church building. In a secular world, the key is to change your definition of church from a facility to a community in ministry all week, beyond worship. On this mission field, the primary mission is what happens during the week, away from the institution, through relationships that already exist. The missional potential of your church is not reflective of the facilities or programs, but the unchurched relationships that already exist among the members.

This is all exactly right, I think. I’d just like to add one thought for the readers to consider and perhaps even discuss — teach grace, Spirit, unity, and mission.

And as the church enjoys true community and the delights of being on mission with God, I think evangelism as they suggest may just become second nature. I’m not sure that means you get to skip the lessons on evangelism. I think it just means the lessons will work.

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