It often astounds me how much effort we have to put into keeping people out of church. As I am writing this piece two workmen are hard at work servicing the shutters that protect our church’s windows and doors. The shutters may not be the prettiest things on earth but they are very necessary if we plan to keep our building safe.
Sadly, there may be barriers that stop people coming into church when we want them to attend. People feel nervous when they first walk through the doors of a church and need to feel welcome. A church member’s frowning face or a church full of cliques can be harder to get over than a barbed wire fence!
I have few anxieties on that front for my own church. On the whole we seem to be a friendly bunch who go out of our way to make people feel at home. My concern is about getting believers out of church and into the community.
For the last ten years, MCM has been building its work on three missional concepts, Incarnation, Compassion, and Proclamation. Incarnation is love entering the world of the people we want to reach. Compassion is love responding to the unmet needs we encounter and Proclamation is love declaring the unsearchable riches of Christ.
Putting any of these concepts into practices requires a measure of courage, but in my experience Incarnation seems to be the hardest of the three. To be intentionally and missionaly present amongst your friends, neighbours, workmates and even family requires a level of vulnerability that most of us would find uncomfortable.
And yet Jesus sends his followers out as lambs amongst wolves. The clear message is that to be “sent out” by Jesus means that we will be vulnerable.
By the time the workmen have finished servicing the church shutters, I will feel that the church building is once again safe. That’s good. Church should be a safe place, at least in some respects.
However, church should not be a fortress where believers are barricaded in to keep them safe from the world. We are a sent people.
by Terry Durose