Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Until churches change, their members will remain the same. That starts with leadership. You can’t steer the Titanic unless you’re the Captain – that’s one of the reasons we’re planting to begin with. A planter sets out to be the change he wants to see in the world. That change begins with the church planter nailing down the values of the gospel that are in stark contrast with the culture he’s exegetes.
If the world is going to be reached, we are going to have to be able to relate to them. There is a lot of talk about the church becoming relevant, but I think that this is barking up the wrong tree, confusing the real issue. The real issue is making your church a mission outpost, and perhaps that’s the language that all could accept. People react to the word “relevant” as if we’re snake oil salesmen trying to pull the latest methodology over the eyes of the church. The church you’re planting in its essences needs to be a missionary endeavor. If it is, then like any good missionary, it must be organized to be all things to all men. That means that its practices serve to be a bridge between men and God in the most accessible way possible without distorting what God is communicating. For example, if “God is love” is the only message the church had to communicate, then most of what mainstream evangelical preaches would be fine. It’s not. Like a recording in GarageBand, if you take any instrument and turn up the volume too high, it distorts. How do we communicate God’s wrath, mercy, judgment and love as Jesus did…as Paul did…but to this culture?
Because most of our core teams have never served as missionaries, we must simultaneously teach them to embrace the gospel, while letting go of unhelpful cultural attachments. More often than not, it’s the church subculture that gets in the way of reaching the lost. Jesus stated that religiosity was the 7 fold demon that enters into a religious person after they’ve engaged in behavior modification. It’s often the most stubborn spirit of all, and the last to let go.
In the early days of planning Pillar’s launch in the UK, I knew that there was nowhere that the lost could go where things wouldn’t be churchy. We’d started a reading group in the local Starbucks that was drawing nonbelievers in excess of 30 at a time. After a couple of months of reaching out to them I was determined that they needed a place that resembled what they’d found in our Starbucks reading group. Although I was reaching middle-class Welsh people in the expanding part of the city to start with, that began to change. Welsh politics are on the more socialistic side of things as a historically industrial nation, so they have attempted to avoid contributing to the creation of ghettos. To help avoid this, they zoned lower income and welfare districts smack in the middle of middle-class neighborhoods. Therefore, the town where I planted started to become a tale of two cities, representing the best of times and the worst of times. As we started reaching the lower income areas, we had to train middle-class Christians to handle strung-out addicts sitting next to them and their kids, and get used to the place reeking of alcohol on a Sunday morning. There was a massive social class gap, and I was convinced that the church was the one place where the cross of Christ could be the bridge. The cross is the great equalizer, not just in vertical theology, but in horizontal practice.
In order to achieve this, we had to be clear about our objectives right out of the starting gate. We made a choice of who we were going to lose. We knew the animosity ran deep on both sides.
The underprivileged railed against the over-indulgence of the rich. The rich complained about the anti-social tendencies of some of the addicts. In anticipation of this, we’d established the “no pharisee” rule as one of our first core values. It would guide us in deciding who we were going to be willing to lose. If somebody was being harsh, judgmental, and critical, they immediately lost the argument and lost our ear. The person who was long-suffering, forgiving, and loving became the champion of Pillar, who modeled Christ to those around them. I was determined to protect the underdog, and if I was going to make anybody angry, (and I’d been in ministry long enough to realize that I would make people angry) I made a decision up front regarding who it’d be. I chose, like my Lord, to offend religious people for the sake of saving the lost.
This was crucial to our underlying philosophy. Officially, our motto was “keep it real” and we meant it. Because our discussion groups would function as can openers on the reserved British, we had to be real with our failings, live transparent lives, and confess our weaknesses in order to pave the way for the others who would follow in our footsteps. The result was a fleshed out model in the Spirit of the gospel. Confession, and quick forgiveness under the blood of Christ was being lived out by a community of people. And it was radically refreshing. It filled the church with an atmosphere of love and forgiveness, and the presence of Christ was felt. It worked. On both counts. Not only did we see people saved and delivered from multiple forms of bondage, we also upset a lot of Christians. In a weird way, I actually relished in finally seeing the Pharisees being the ones who had to leave the church for a change.
Buy Peyton’s newest book “Reaching The Unreached: Becoming Raiders of the Lost Art” over on Amazon.com. You can also download a free chapter and watch a cool trailer for the book HERE or click the image below.