One of the bright spots of the church is it can give those who are disconnected from God a safe place to explore, experiment, and experience the Gospel for themselves. For those trying to find their way to God a shift in their worldview is a painstaking process that takes time. This complex journey can best happen in the context of a safe place and safe people. When “followers of Jesus” understand their mission to live like Jesus, love like Jesus, and leave what Jesus left behind (those who live and love like him) the church becomes a powerful force in this process regardless of what form it takes: organized or organic.
At the heart of God’s missional movement are a displaced people with seeking hearts. God created us as seekers. People in general are seeking meaning, purpose, and acceptance. Churches that address these basic issues dot the landscape of North America and are experiencing greater impact.
Many of these churches are responding to man’s search for meaning with dogma without being dogmatic. The core question people are seeking answers for is “Why?” Historically churches are eager to focus on “what”. “This is what you should be doing. “, “Don’t ask questions just do what I tell you to do. ” Those who ask questions are viewed with suspicion and seen as non-conformist. Yet at the core of our search is our need to satisfy the “why”. We see it in our children. As little toddlers we demand that they respond appropriately and they do. Their first questions are always “why”?
Creating a culture of fellow strugglers, searchers, and seekers is the first step toward creating a safe place for others to explore, experiment, and experience the gospel. I still remember the day I stopped having to have all the answers. A young seeker asked me some profound question that had been asked and answered millions of times. I don’t even remember the specifics of the question. I don’t think it mattered. I simply responded, “I don’t know”. It changed the relationship forever. It gave permission for my friend to seek. I never forget the day I interviewed him in our church. The last question I asked him was “How would you describe yourself? A seeker? One who struggles? Or one who has found? “ I thought he would at least say I’m seeking. His response was “I’m struggling” at that point the band began to play Show Me the Way. I’m convinced there are millions of people who are like my friend looking for a place that will accept no only seekers, but strugglers.
We must also understand the importance of responding to man’s need for purpose. Often we hear from those who have followed for a while, they want more “meat” or desire to go “deeper”. Perhaps what they are articulating is a kind of boredom that comes with life when you lose your way. And by the way, we who are in the church are just as prone to lose our way as those on the outside. For years researchers have taunted the church with findings like, “the church is boring”. Churches that understand the mission of God are responding with purpose. I just returned from the Middle East with four lay people from our church. Need I say we are not bored! People were created for purpose. Why else would 30 million people respond to a book like The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren? Churches of all forms must accept God’s call to challenge those who attend, seek, and believe to follow Jesus. There is nothing boring about following Him.
Finally, those who are searching and seeking are looking for acceptance. They desire to belong. Yet at the same time the family unit has been fractured by an economic system that drives us from our core families in search of the American Dream. It doesn’t stop there. We are isolated by our brokenness. Sin has fractured our ability and desire to connect, to love and be loved. We are relational wounded and unsure of how to respond so we take “fight or flight”. Yet we long for a safe place to dabble once again in relationships. A place driven by an ideal like “peace on earth” or a mantra like “love one another.” A place where I can be my self and still be fully loved and accepted. A place where grace and hope resides and I am received as I am and someone sees a brighter future in me.
Contextualizing the Gospels means responding to these basic needs as the living breathing body of Christ. When “followers of Jesus” come together to live, love, and leave like Jesus it is a powerful “show of force”. The enemy is intimidated, but more importantly those who are seeking, searching, and struggling find a safe place and people to explore, experiment, and experience the Good News!