Monday, April 17, 2006


At CTK we are trying to be better at outreach than than “in-drag.” We want to be more centrifugal than centripetal. We want to develop a sending style instead of an attractional one. This is why I enjoyed very much what Michael Frost wrote in his book The Shaping of Things to Come (pp.42,43):

Some time ago I was watching my daughter play soccer in a local park. Next to the field was an asphalt area where a group of model-car enthusiasts had set up a track and were using remote controls to race their cars against each other’s. The constant buzz of the miniature motors caught our attention and we wandered over to watch what they were doing. We soon realized we had encountered a lost suburban tribe. Everyone looked the same. They all wore tight black jeans and checkered flannel shirts. They wore baseball caps with car manufacturers’ logos on them. They had parked their cars – virtually all drove pickups – beside the track, and their wives or girlfriends sat in one of the truckbeds talking and laughing loudly. It was a tribe in every sense of the word – dress code, language, culture, and customs. We learned that once a month on a Sunday morning they met to race each other, to discuss the latest designs in model cars, and to drink and laugh and build community.

If the nearby church decided that this suburban tribe needed to hear about the saving work of Christ, how would they reach them? The attractional church would hold special services for model-car racers. It would design an excellent flyer explaining that Jesus loves model-car enthusiasts, and they would place one under the windshield wipers of each pickup. It would try to find a recently converted model-car enthusiast and have him share his testimony one Sunday morning. The attractional church would seek to do anything it could to draw the car racing fraternity into its church building. This might even work if you’re dealing with a localized community with some geographic proximity to the church building. But a car club community usually draws people from a very large geographical area. The model-car club is probably a city-wide community, and its members probably drive great distances to come to its monthly meetings. They are not drawn together by some geographical proximity, but by a commonly held interest. And to complicate matters further, they meet on Sunday mornings!

The attractional church is stuck! Even though it has a close-knit community of people (likely non-churchgoers) right outside its door, it has no mechanism for sharing Christ with them. Since they (the car club members) are not likely to run up at the church service one Sunday (doesn’t the attractional church love stories of people miraculously turning up at the church service searching for meaning and purpose!), the only way to share Christ’s love with them must be to go to them. It would be a decidedly incarnational choice if a few members of a local church, so moved by compassion for the car enthusiasts right across the road, chose to buy a model car and join the club!.......If the spirit of our missionary God were to sweep through such a church, we don’t doubt that the church itself might buy a few model cars and commission some of its members to miss the morning service so that they can fully enter into the community of the car club. By racing cars and repairing cars, they could earn the right of relationship to share their thoughts on life and their love for Jesus.

I have to admit, when I first read this story, the punch line caught me by surprise. But only because I still have some “un-learning” to do about how to reach out to an unchurched culture. Foreign missionaries know that they must join tribal activities if they are to reach the tribe. But in America the attractional model has been so pervasive that it is difficult to transition our impulses from “how can we get them to come to us?” to “how can we go to them?”

“How much of the traditional church’s energy goes into adjusting their programs and their public meetings to cater to an unseen constituency? If we get our seating, our parking, our children’s program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come. This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people don’t join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they’re unhappy with the product. The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light.” (The Shaping of Things to Come)

We are in the forefront of a tectonic shift that is happening in the church. I describe the organic, multi-site approach under construction at CTK as Deliberate Simplicity. But there are actually several books that are coming out right now describing the shift in thinking and behavior, including....

Revolution, George Barna
The Shaping of Things to Come, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch
Organic Church, Neil Cole
Church Planting Movements, David Garrison

The overwhelming conclusion you will reach after reading these books is, “We are part of something that is much bigger than we are.”

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