What is your church’s strategy to penetrate the unbelieving culture in your community?

I think it’s great when the Church of God grows by amalgamation. But I don’t get excited about it…

What excites me is when we grow through living the Great Commission! I am of the opinion that we “Spirit-Filled Christians” have great potential to penetrate the pluralistic and hedonistic culture of Western Society. But the potential I see is outside of the doors of the church… in the marketplace!

As people of the Spirit, is God giving us dreams and visions that take us beyond our box to a place where we receive a God-given strategy for each of our unique mission fields?

How are we doing it across the world? …are we doing it?

Maybe the greatest internal opportunity in the Church of God is church planting but as we listen to and pray about the unbelieving world around us, what is the greatest external opportunity God has laid before us?

If we join hands as a church and look inward maybe we all would agree that we should plant churches. But if we join hands and all face outward looking the lost world in the eyes what would we say???

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10 Responses

  1. Matt,

    I look at a few things as a starting point:

    1. The big felt needs in our community: time strain, financial strain, stress, long commutes, parental challenges,

    2. The community DNA: diversity, single parent families, isolation, materialistic tendencies, party culture, limited disposable income, language and cultural barriers.

    Then, we begin to speak to those characteristics. We have 25% of the homes in our neighborhood attending Life Pointe because we opened our homes and leveraged a party culture and combated the feelings of isolation.

    We consider commute times (1-2 hours each way daily) when we craft our ministry expectations.

    We target our outreaches to touch families with kids. While we have 2 adults for every kid 12 and under, also over 60% of our people are single. Being able to touch and shape the hearts of single parent children, we are able to bring grace to some challenging situations.

    Ultimately, the path you choose to pentetrate the unbelieving culture of your community is to know the DNA of your community and to love it in terms that make sense. The gateway to community redemption is through a path of care and love spoken in a language that makes sense.

    Great question, Matt.

  2. Matt wrote: “As people of the Spirit, is God giving us dreams and visions that take us beyond our box to a place where we receive a God-given strategy for each of our unique mission fields? How are we doing it across the world? …are we doing it”

    One of the defining characteristics of the Church of God around the world is its success in reaching immigrant and minority groups. I believe that immigration is the key cultural shift currently taking place in the world. It is only going to increase.

    It is a statistical fact that immigrants are many times more receptive to the Gospel than are other groups of people. Therefore a church that is serious about conversion growth must target this receptive group effectively.

    Incidentally, ‘immigrants’ can include those who relocate from one part of a nation to another. A kid from California who goes to College in New Jersey is an immigrant. A senior from Pennsylvania who retires to Arizona or Florida is an immigrant.

    The problem, as I see it, is that too many of our churches have adopted a siege mentality as regards our culture. We perceive our Christian values as being under threat and we have circled the wagons. Since immigrants are outside that circle we inevitably render ourselves ineffective in reaching the most receptive and innovative potential disciples. This reduces us to fishing for the occasional convert from an ever-shrinking pool of natives.

  3. Nick,
    You wrote: “The problem, as I see it, is that too many of our churches have adopted a siege mentality as regards our culture. We perceive our Christian values as being under threat and we have circled the wagons. Since immigrants are outside that circle we inevitably render ourselves ineffective in reaching the most receptive and innovative potential disciples. This reduces us to fishing for the occasional convert from an ever-shrinking pool of natives.”

    I agree with you completely on this. I would add also that too many churches seem to want to “pick-and-choose” a particular style within their own given culture. Some churches want to isolate those within their given culture who are educated/uneducated, wealthy/poor, etc. I think we have unconsciously added a disclaimer clause to the part of Rev 22:19 that says “Whosoever will…”

    Just my thoughts…

  4. Oops! (I thought I proofed the above post).

    I should have been Rev. 22:17
    (which, btw, was the text of my great-great grandmother’s first sermon when she was called to preach in 1909 after she was baptized with the Holy Spirit… but let’s not debate how she knew when she was Spirit-baptized 😉 )

  5. I think that the best way to reach the unbelieving culture in your community is to simply be a part of the community.
    When people see that you aren’t just some outsider that’s trying to get them to change their ways – that you are actually part of the community, building relationships with them – then your message will have a much larger hearing, and you will begin to build trust with the others in your community.
    A good read on this subject is “With Justice for All” by John Perkins (http://www.amazon.com/Justice-All-Strategy-Community-Development/dp/0830744959/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1219522352&sr=1-6).

  6. Travis,

    When you said, “we opened our homes and leveraged a party culture and combated the feelings of isolation.”
    What exactly did that look like? I believe the answer to this question can be very helpful to pastors.

    Nick,
    You wrote, “One of the defining characteristics of the Church of God around the world is its success in reaching immigrant and minority groups.”

    On the whole, is the Church of God in the US currently successful at reaching these groups? I believe the statistics tell us a different story. (Travis, can you help with this?)

    There are certain groups I feel more of an affinity toward in the culture I am engaging and they are those I perceive to be in some sense an immigrant population among a culture (the military) of immigrants. I have seen great fruit reaching this group. However, another group within the military has started to show up. God has called me outside of my comfort zone to start reaping fruit in a context I was not planning on engaging.

    Louis I agree with everything you said! That circling of the wagons is due to a deception of Satan that the Church of God has fallen for. We have failed to discern the correct battlefield!

    One example I see is the re-emphasis / affirmation of our Pentecostal distinctives and the Declaration of Faith. Many had seen a threat to these distinctives from within. However, there was no threat! The real battle was against the enemy who would sew discord, opposes unity and pride among the fathers and their children. (Of course I am “anti-creedal old timey! like Spurling)

    Fortunately, from my perspective, God did intervene and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers. Following the intervention of God we began to hear the cry of the daughters… again.

    If we will remain faithful to what God has done and is doing we can continue to make progress… together!

  7. Kevin,

    I agree! How are you and your church practically living that out?

  8. You can’t clean a fish until you catch him and get him home. As Paul said, “We become all things to all people that we may save some.” What I am saying is some times because of cultural differences in Florida we tend to treat them like they have the plaque. We need to catch them in a forum that attracts them and then teach them the gospel on a level they can understand it and except it. Many of the people we deal with don’t even know what we are asking when we say, “are you saved.”? So we need to involve them in a group that will work with their culture until we can get some defining terms taught to them. Then they become thrilled to be accepted into fellowship not just with a group of people but with a church that understands them and where they came from.

  9. Matt,

    I think I shared some of the stuff we are doing with you during Engage21, but here are some links to bring you up to date:

    Pastoring a Community

    It Begins

    The Beginning

    Something is Happening

    Taking It Back

    Basically, we have outreaches we use to engage the community and then outreaches with other churches with a much broader scope.

    In addition to this, pastors with like vision have come together to pray with city leaders and dialogue for the common good of the community. As a result (if all goes well with the grant) another pastor and I will be serving to oversee a $500k project steered at improving our community and our police department will receive an additional $500k for enforcement.

  10. Darrell,
    Wow! What you are doing is awsome!

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