*This is the 6th in a series of entries inspired by books I’ve read on the subject of the “missional church.” Please read the ground rules before beginning. Also, try to read entries in chronological order as they tend to build on the previous entry, okay?
I’d gotten a fraternity bid the next-to-last night of rush week. They rang a bell, gave a hearty chant, there were handshakes and well-wishes all around.
I’d fulfilled the pledging responsibilities. There were fewer well-wishes and more chores, and lots of bonding stuff from pledge class sports to parties with sororities to meeting the brotherhood (and getting them to sign a book with their hometown, major and trivia about themselves).
I’d endured initiation. A long-weekend of things that I think certain laws/policies have been enacted since to prevent from happening again…but mostly just trick questions that required push-ups and no sleep and lots more chores. And one fantastic party was the ceremonies were over…and an entire spring quarter of enjoying many more parties with sororities and the brotherhood I’d now become a part of.
Over that year, there were plenty of fun times and truly great friends and all that with Animal House inspired goodness…not to mention some in which we could’ve inspired Animal House a bit. From the culturally ingrained football game festivities (which ate up entire weekends plus one day for recovery) to socials to parties to building floats for parades to fundraisers to the annual Luau to the annual tackle football game to the year-ending speeches by the graduating seniors. I thought I’d learned a lot about this group of guys. Not only in the group identity sense that a fraternity gives but also about them as individuals.
I mean, I’d come from my off-campus apartment to campus for class…then to lunch at the house. Back to campus for a class or two. Then back to the off-campus apartment for whatever it is that I did for a couple of hours, which I think mostly consisted of MTV (back when it played music) or goofing off with my roommates. Then back to the fraternity house for dinner. If it was the weekend we’d stick around for whatever party was happening, but after dinner it was either the library or maybe something social with a friend or back to the off-campus apartment. You get to know people when you spend that much time with them.
Then I moved in.
Got my room assignment and new roomie Hollywood. The room came complete with two closets and a makeshift desk and bunk beds made from plywood and 2×4’s. We added a couple of dressers, a mini-fridge and cork board for ZAPS. Some shelving was in place that kept a few books & some crap & album crates, stereo and TV. We were high-class because Hollywood pilfered a Sony BetaMax from his parent’s garage and we had a few movies on tape. But moving in was…
I was now IN the fraternity house. There were about 70 or so, or about 3/4 of the membership. There were two floors with 20 dorm rooms and community bathrooms on each floor. A common room for TV events and for socializing and a dining hall area and a bar. Not necessarily the ingredients for life-change, but MANALIVE did it ever do that.
See, I was now involved in the true rhythm of the fraternity instead of seeing it in short bursts. I woke up with them. Shared bathroom space with them. Ate three meals a day with them (which I have since become aware of the power of the common table and food in the life of community–even if the food was cafeteria style and you only got seconds if you cleaned your plate and finished in time while they were still available…otherwise you had to fill up on salad). Did some chores with them. Hacked them off and they hacked me off. Laughed like crazy with them. The ups and downs of college life were lived there. Gameday became different. Socials became different. Parties became different. Fundraisers were different. Building floats for parades was different. Luau was different. Senior speeches were different. Because we were so busy doing life togther…day in & day out. For over two years for me (I made the mistake of graduating early and heading off to seminary), I did every bit of life with people I was living with.
Now, nearly a quarter-century later, we can get together even though we’ve been separated by geography and jobs and family responsibilities and pick up where we left off. Such is the power of incarnational living.
This is the key difference in the attractional model versus the missional model when it comes to designing those systems churches use to move people along in their faith journey. Again, one isn’t better or whatever than the other…simply highlighting differences here, kids.
See, the attractional model says, “Come, visit. We think you’ll like us and what we’re about. Eventually, you’ll get to know us and we’ll do everything we can to help you get to know Jesus.”
The missional model says, “This place is where I live. Whoever I come in contact with and whatever I do, I will show the love of Christ and model Kingdom living. Let’s do life deeply together.”
As I stated earlier in pointing out the inherent problems and drawbacks of the attractional model, there’s a significant number of people who will never ever come to church for a myriad of reasons. Additionally, there’s something that nobody likes to chat about: The reality that the method you use to reach people will be the method you HAVE to use to keep those people.
See, if you start with the idea that following Jesus is primarily about being at the building he shows up at most often, going to Bible studies, or age-segregated quality programs, and inviting friends to “outreach” events, well, then that’s what people will do. They will be inherently limited and your staff will be slaving away trying to make quality Sunday services, mid-week/in-home Bible studies that are “culturally relevant,” (whatever the heck that means), creative programs (that are often coming from big-box Christian retailers or church conferences) and bigger/better outreach events. In the words of Frost & Hirsch, the “outreach” is really “in-drag.” In effect, people are coming from their off-campus apartment and checking-in. Even if they do so daily, it isn’t quite the same as living in the fraternity house, is it?
But if we’re going to do and say what Jesus did and said, well, umm…
…we’re going to have to move-in.
We’re going to have to take the Jesus that almost everybody seems to at least admire (even if they see him as a great teacher or whatever) to where we live. Where we’ve moved in. Where we truly understand the rhythms of the place. Where we truly “get” the culture of the place. Where we share tables with people. Where we have ups and downs with people. Where we work. Where we play. Wherever we are at any given time. These are our places. And, well…
…we’re going to have to move-in.
Frost and Hirsch describe it this way:
Jesus moved into the neighborhood; he experienced its life, its rhythms, and it’s people from the inside and not as an outsider. It is sobering to think that for thirty years Jesus practiced this presence before he actually started his ministry. Nazareth had indeed become a living part of him and defined him in so many unaccountable ways. If this was so for Jesus then, we believe, we, too, need to practice the missional discipline of presence and identification with any of the groups and people we hope to engage with. This is true whether they are local ravers or members of bohemian art collectives, sports clubs, common interest groups, or parent groups–we need to identify a whole lot more before we can expect to really share Jesus in a meaningful way with them.
See, the idea is that we’ll be moving in…sending ourselves and taking Jesus with us instead of bringing people to where we hang out with Jesus.
To the places God has already placed us.
To the people God has already put in our lives.
In the times God has already given us.
It starts with our marriages and families. It flows into our commute. It flows into our interactions with those serving us during the day and those we serve during the day. It flows into our hobbies and extracurricular activities. It flows into every nook and cranny, to every person we rub shoulders with, in every second of our lives.
And tomorrow we’ll take a look at the nature of living this way…what that looks like and how that’s done.
But for today, how does this change your view of “outreach,” if at all?
What can existing churches do to help people “move in” instead of “visiting” as I’ve used those terms here?
What are the dangers/downsides/drawbacks of “moving in” as compared to “visiting” as I’ve used those terms here?
Have at it, patrons!