One of the ingredients of a church planting movement is that it will be apostolic: that is, it will involve sent communities that go to people. ‘Apostle’ means ‘sent one’. They were at street level. They grew not by advertising their services on noticeboard and opening their doors each Sunday morning. They grew through relationships.
People talk about ‘attractional church’ meaning a ‘come to our meetings’ model. We put on events to attract people to come. We expect people to come to where we feel comfortable and they feel uncomfortable. These communities were not like that. They went to people. It’s very easy for us to put on events that suit us at locations that suit us and at times that suit us. But to reach a neighbourhood or community of people, we need to:
- eat their food
- play their games
- hear their stories
- walk their streets
- enter their homes
- follow their timetable
- inhabit their spaces
The Crowded House was founded with a conviction that ‘home’ provided a great location for church in contemporary Britain. But even our homes can be safe places for us and alien for others. After all, we follow a Saviour who had no home. I still believe in homes. Homes can become places where people feel they belong. Moreover, it does not have to be my home. We should look to plant churches in the homes of new converts. That way contextualised will happen more naturally. But we also need to move mission outside of church buildings and outside of Christian homes.
People take about ‘third places’. The first place is my home, the second is my work. Third places are everywhere else people congregate and socialise: café, gyms, clubs, pubs and so on. Jesus had no home, but he came eating and drinking! Look for venues where people eat and drink.
We need to get to know our neighbourhoods. We need to carry with us profiles of typical people so that they become the natural people we dialogue in our thinking, and teaching.
Attractional community rather than attractional meetings
But I want to retain the word ‘attractional’. We need attractional communities, not in the sense of a ‘come to our meeting’, but in the sense of a loving, vibrant shared live that attracts the world. The genius of New Testament theology was that it combined an Old Testament centripetal missiology with centrifugal movement.