I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
to a nation that was not called by my name.
We won’t disagree about the principle, that God is on a mission. Similarly, Jesus’ church is on a mission. He commands us to make disciples and seek his his kingdom. Historically we see that when the love of God wells up in the church it overflows to those around them. These statements are generally agreed upon by Christians of many backgrounds. The difficulty comes when we speak of practice and implementation. What does it mean for us that God is sending his church? What will it mean that the church is not just for those gathered inside but those who don’t yet belong to Christ and may never come to him.
First, being outward focused fits with our other foundational commitments to the gospel, whole persons, friendship, the city, and multiplication. This means that facing outward will principally address the spiritual bankruptcy of those who do not know Christ and call them to faith. It will not stop there though, as spiritual, emotional, physical, social, and relational needs are normally intertwined. The grace of God also forms a basis for friendships with people who live and believe differently than you. Furthermore, we will care about the city as a whole. Our goal in facing outward is not simply to grow the church but to see God’s mercy touch our society and its structures for the betterment of all people. So here are some specifics:
Our language will open opportunities rather than put up barriers. In a world of polarization and “us” vs. “them” rhetoric, we will not use simplistic labels but truly listen and understand our neighbors. We will strive to answer their questions, tell their stories and translate Christian truth through accessible terms while also introducing the specialized language of the bible.
Prayer for those who do not believe, for the needy in Worcester, for the city as a whole, and the world beyond us will pour out and be intentionally cultivated. In the lives of individuals and families, in bible studies and ministry teams, in Sunday worship and concentrated times of prayer we will ask God to lead us and work through us to love those outside the church.
As we develop styles for different ministries, not only will we ask, what is faithful to the bible, we will also ask, what will best fit our context. In worship we will not pick the type of music that I like best or makes it easiest for me to worship, but that fits the people we are called to reach.
From the outset we model, discuss, and teach different approaches for talking about Jesus with our friends, families, and coworkers. Through baptisms, testimonies, and other events we celebrate and remember the work of God in drawing people to faith in Christ. In a similar vein we will identify one or two specific ways that we can serve the city, equip people in this area, and continue to grow in our specific calling in the city.