Core Value Three: Authentic Community
Last January I had the privilege of flying to the Czech Republic to participate in an incredible ministry event with Josiah Venture Ministries. Over 200 young leaders from 15 European countries were scheduled to attend the gathering and I was flying with 3 other ministry leaders from the U.S. Everything was going according to plan until the night before our departure when I received a call from one of the other travelers. She informed me that New York City was expecting over 30 inches of snow the next day at the exact time when we were supposed to connect through the city on our way to Europe. Good to know.
We had some decisions to make. Do we stay on our scheduled flight plan and risk getting stuck in New York for days on end or do we take another route? We ended up rerouting to Washington D.C. early in the morning which resulted in a significant layover and then taking two additional flights before we arrived in Prague. No big deal, at least we got there. As for the epic blizzard…it never happened. In the end only five to six inches of snow hit New York City and the whole experience became a classic example of overreacting.
If you followed the story you might remember that Governor Andrew Cuomo not only made the decision to clear the streets of all cars but also made the decision to shut down the entire New York City subway system – which had never happened in its 100-year history.
The take away for us? Many times when it comes to building relationships with the unchurched we react in a similar way. We get all worked up on all the bad possibilities that could happen and we end up doing nothing or overreacting. We fear that we may be rejected or we may get asked a question we can’t answer or we may have to endure a really awkward experience. The reality is the unchurched are way more receptive to genuine relationship, genuine conversation, and genuine invitation than we realize.
Take for example these points from Thom Rainer’s article “Ten Surprises About the Unchurched.” I only highlighted four for time’s sake but you can read the whole article here http://bit.ly/1Li9saH.
Surprise No. 1: Ninety-six percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if they are invited.
The next obvious question is: Are Christians inviting non-Christians to church? The heartbreaking answer is “no.” Only 21 percent of active churchgoers invite anyone to church in the course of a year. But only 2 percent of the church members invited an unchurched person to church.
Surprise No. 2: Most of the unchurched feel guilty about not attending church.
“Every Sunday morning I wake up and feel terrible about not taking Shanna and Tim to church,” Mary G. of Sarasota, Fla., told us. “Mike [her husband] feels the same way. It’s tough to start a habit of doing something you’ve never done before.” So, if they feel guilty, why did the unchurched continue to avoid church? As strange as it may seem to a churchgoing Christian, the church intimidates the unchurched person. They do not think they can fit in a place they have never attended. And they are uncertain about church protocol. They just fear that they will feel out of place.
Surprise No. 3: Very few of the unchurched had someone share with them how to become a Christian.
Surprise No. 4: The unchurched would like to develop a real and sincere relationship with a Christian.
The leader of Thom’s research team, Twyla Fagan, stated this issue clearly in a memo she wrote about the progress of the research project: “Most of the unchurched that the team is interviewing would respond positively to a ‘genuine’ Christian who would spend time with them in a gentle, non-judgmental relationship.” Twyla continues, “Most of the unchurched can easily tell the difference between ‘drive-by’ evangelism and a person who rally cares.”
We really do have more opportunity than we realize so let’s live out Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Dave and April