If the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed anything to the church in Canada, it is the vulnerability of relying on the building-based gathering as the primary means for both nurturing and discipling the people of God, and for making Christ known to the lost who live in the surrounding community.
Since the Church is tasked with both as priorities, ignoring this vulnerability comes at great cost. Some of that cost has been realized in these last months of public health restrictions.
Over the last number of years there has been quite a bit of talk in the Christian community about becoming more ‘missional’—a word that is intended to describe the reversal from an ‘inward-gathering, consumer-style, needy’ church to an ‘outward-serving, disciple-making, empowered’ church. Those descriptors are a gross over-simplification of the complexities articulated in countless books, blogs, and presentations, but it will suffice for the purpose of this blog.
However much the idea of ‘missional church’ might appeal, the challenge is that pre-existing structures, systems, core assumptions and perspectives have all been built upon the ‘inward-gathering, building centric’ church model. These prevailing structures and systems cannot be undone simply by changing the vocabulary and writing a new strategic plan.
In transitioning to a missional church model, questions need to be wrestled with.
- What is the pastor’s role?
- How will our ministries need to change?
- Do we still do a Sunday sermon and if so, what’s the focus?
- What is the building used for?
And perhaps most importantly…
- Where will motivation for change come from, especially in those people who are quite happy with or locked into the status quo?
There are no easy answers to any of these questions, but any church that has made progress in this transition has tackled the challenge as a conversation and journey that must be owned by the whole church community.
Recognizing the journey that must be taken by pastors and their congregations, Simply Mobilizing has developed a program called Interface which is intended to help facilitate an ongoing conversation about the core beliefs and values that need to be reconsidered. Working first with church leaders, the Interface materials are intended to be discussed and considered by everybody in the church, so that the shifts in thinking and priorities that need to be addressed will be tackled and owned together.
Rather than starting with the behaviour questions I just listed, Interface starts by tackling the core worldview questions that have led to the building-based, consumer-style behaviours that we’re all familiar with.
- What is the Bible all about?
- What is the purpose of the church?
- How do Christians grow in maturity in their faith?
- What are the characteristics of a missional church?
Since worldview is built on our beliefs, Interface looks again at the grand sweep of scripture and church history, realigning beliefs to match with what the big story of the Bible reveals. When those beliefs are lined up, values begin to shift, and when values shift, people start living and behaving in agreement with their values.
Rather than being a ‘silver bullet’ promising an instant fix, Interface is an invitation into an ongoing conversation about the call to join God in his mission in the world, starting in your neighbourhood.
Offered as a facilitated, video-based curriculum, pastors who have experienced the six-session Interface seminar and want to implement it in their church community, are coached by an SM Mobilizer as they begin the journey with their congregation.
If you’re a church leader and would like to explore introducing the Interface Program in your church, let’s start the conversation firstname.lastname@example.org. We have team members across Canada who will help you get started as you lead your church into a challenging, but exciting conversation.
You can also find out more information here: Simply Mobilizing - Interface
Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.