God's plan to transform all things begins by Engaging the Unchurched with the mind-blowing news of Jesus, and he calls the community of Jesus-followers to the task. In my last Destination Transformation post I addressed two of four keys to engagement: 1) Engaging churches take the initiative and 2) Engaging churches create a presence. This post will look at two more keys to engagement.
1. Engaging Churches are Relevant. I am successful in communicating, not when I transfer information from me to you, but when you understand and respond to the transferred information. God entrusts the church with the message of Jesus, a message with cosmic and eternal implications, a message of the most relevance, a message of joy and hope. He also calls the church to communicate the message!
Unfortunately, many established churches fail to communicate the message of Jesus because they have confused the means with the message. The message is eternal but the means must change as culture changes if a church wants to communicate and not simply transfer Jesus information. I believe many of the churches in my tribe (Churches of Christ) are on hospice because they believe it is more important to protect the means than communicate the message. (Fortunately, I am honored to serve at an established church taking the hard and exciting journey of learning again to communicate in relevant ways). We can talk about, we can even scream about Jesus until we turn purple, pass out and wake up stripped naked in a ditch somewhere...you get the idea...but if the message is not heard, if our means of communicating the message is irrelevant, then we might as well be silent.
If I want to share Fun's hit song Some Nights with my sister in Texas, I don't imprint the single on a vinyl record and UPS it (Yes, I used UPS as a verb) to the Metroplex. Most likely she would use it as a coaster or Frisbee. Because although the record contains the message I want to communicate, I have just added a plethora (I first heard this word in the movie The Three Amigos) of obstacles in her way before she can hear the song. She would have to track down someone who had a record player, borrow their record player, learn how to use the record player and then listen to the song. With four kids I doubt she would go through the effort. Conclusion: record equals information transferred but not communicated - failure!
Instead, I would send her a link to the video on YouTube or a link to a sample on iTunes. "Click" and "Tadah!" music. The information on both the record and the link are the same, but one creates unnecessary obstacles because it is an irrelevant form of communication. Records where great in the 1940's but are irrelevant to the majority of America today. Many established churches are trying to communicate the message of the gospel on vinyl records in a digital world.
From the beginning, God has intentionally removed communication obstacles. He is the founder of relevant communication. In Acts 2, the pilgrim crowd of Jews have gathered in Jerusalem for the Pentecost celebration. The writer of Acts describes it this way, Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5), and with the diverse crowd came a variety of different languages. As the story goes, God sends the Holy Spirit during this high-traffic period to empower his disciples to share the wonders of God with the crowd. As the Holy Spirit descends on the Jesus Community, they begin to share the wonders of God in the multiple languages of the Jerusalem pilgrims: When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken (Acts. 2:6).
God's primary objective was to communicate the message and he removed any obstacle that would keep his target audience from hearing what he wanted to say. He did not wait for the pilgrim crowd to learn Aramaic. He crashed through that obstacle by giving his followers an instant Rosetta Stone experience. If churches want to engage the Unchurched we have to remove any barriers that keep the message from being heard...yes, even our traditions.
2. Engaging Churches Serve in the Name of Jesus. In Luke 9, Jesus sends out the Twelve to preach that God's reign (Kingdom) is breaking into the world. Luke tells us:
[Jesus] gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God AND to heal the sick (Luke 9:1-2).
Jesus does not simply tell his disciples to preach about God's reign but to impact people's lives at the same time by curing them of their ailments. In other words, the message of God's kingdom comes with examples. The same stands true today. If churches want to engage the Unchurched then we cannot simply talk about Jesus we have to give examples of Jesus. We must serve our communities in Jesus' name.
We must ask: 1) How can we serve our community? 2) What organizations, both christian and secular, can we partner with to make a difference in our community? 3) What are the needs of the area surrounding our physical location?