I’ve served at several churches prior to Acts 2 in capacities ranging from youth director to pastor. During that time, I’ve heard members of other churches complain that no one from the community ever comes to worship or a program that the particular church is hosting. I’ve heard a drastically different type of conversation since coming on staff at Acts 2 more than four years ago.
One of my favorite things that One Church has done this summer is what we’ve called “Hang Out at Heard on Hurd.” This is as simple as it sounds. As a community of faith, we practice what one of my colleagues has called, “the spiritual gift of hangin’ out.” During these events, everyone is encouraged to bring their friends, family and neighbors who do not have a church home and simply go to an event they would have gone to anyway. Now, we are not the only church present at Heard on Hurd. In fact, there are several churches who have shown their presence at Heard on Hurd in much different ways. Some of them have set up booths, others have worn shirts and engaged patrons in deep, meaningful conversations about spirituality and salvation. All of this is very important. But as a community of faith, I believe it is important for One Church to do something uniquely different.
The thing I enjoy so much about this event is the way in which we can engage non-religious and non-active Christians in a comfortable and relaxed environment. There is no objective to the event. There is no homework required. This is simply an invitation for people who do not have a church home to do something with “church people” that is not specifically churchy. This isn’t the only thing that One Church and Acts 2 does in this way. In fact, most of our missions evolve around something that our people are already doing and inviting others to join in. This is true of most of our trips to the Regional Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Edmond Mobile Meals and many others!
As I mentioned, I’ve served at a few different churches in different capacities. In these roles, I’ve tried the highly organized and strictly implemented program designed to get new people into church. Here’s what I’ve learned: it doesn’t work. One of my favorite learnings from Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon in The Art of Neighboring was, “There isn’t a simple tool that can move you into relationship, because it is impossible to program relationships.” In other words, people, especially non-religious and non-active Christians, don’t want a program. They want a relationship.
This is what Jesus stressed in his ministry. In the Gospel of Matthew, after Jesus instructs his Disciples he sends them out to talk about what they have seen and heard. When he sends them out Matthew writes, “Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities” (Matthew 11:1). Did you catch that? Jesus went to the cities from which the disciples came—where they already had relationships! Jesus didn’t explain a seven-step plan to make disciples. He didn’t put a sign up that said “Jesus here!” He talked to people the disciples already knew in the community.
We all have some connection to the wider community. If we were being honest, some of us feel a need to engage in a more meaningful way. Whatever your connection level, I hope you will start to see how God is using all of your relationships to bring God’s Kingdom here. This is why it is important to make relationships with people in the community and why it is important for us to go where the community is instead of hoping that everyone comes to us.