The question has to be asked. Why commit yourself to a model that takes the emphasis off of the Sunday gathering? We're seeing a trend where the number of mega-churches is on the rise. So doesn't that suggest that polishing Sunday is the best way to have the largest impact? Why change course?
The tension that Shaina and I have felt is that SYSTEMS PRODUCE WHAT THEY ARE DESIGNED TO PRODUCE. And our observation is that Jesus followers in the United States have a tendency to be consumeristic. They leave one church because they "aren't being fed" and they go to another church and maybe the lights and fog machines and charisma of the speaker "feeds" them.
I guess what we're sensing is that Christians have become consumeristic because by and large we have implemented systems that produce them that way.
You want to know why the number of large churches is growing? Is it primarily growth from unchurched people suddenly finding genuine community/inspiration through the experience? No. It's mostly growth from people who have grown up in the church and are now going from church to church to find whatever it is they are looking for. This type of preaching. This kind of music. This style of atmosphere. Large churches are growing while many previously vital churches are now sunsetting.
This is not an indictment as much on church as we know it (though, there are some concerns I am trying to raise). This is more about why some are feeling a call to blaze new (and ancient) trails.
We don't see 20 somethings pleading for the American Dream...for consumerism...for more church services and more polish and more fog. Some do.
But many have a heart cry for living for a cause bigger than themselves. (Mission)
And many have a heart cry for living in authentic, transparent relationship with other people. (Community)
So in a culture that is clearly post-church-as-we-know-it, we can complain and grumble and say things like "kids these days" or "the way we've always done it".
Or we can look in scripture and notice that what Jesus was doing was forming a community of people (disciples) and inviting/challenging them toward a cause (bring the kingdom).
The very thing people in our context are crying for is the very thing Jesus began forming at the outset of the movement.
You belong. (Community...Family)
You have a part to play. (Mission...Partnership)
Some might say, "we have an outreach team and a small group ministry"...we're doing the same thing. And there is a yes and a no to that. Yes...there is an OUT (Mission) component to your church and an IN (Community) component as well...but they are, in my experience, secondary in importance to the Sunday gathering experience. Don't believe me? Even if the church articulates that it's priorities are serving and being in community...their watches and wallets betray them. How much of the budget is spent on the building...on the Sunday experience...on the polish? How much of the leaders time (both paid and unpaid leaders) is spent gearing up for Sunday as opposed to gearing up for community or spending time investing in the lives of the poor, the downtrodden and those far from God?
This is where the tension lies and why our sense is that in order to reach people no one is reaching, you've got to go where no one is going and do what no one is doing.
You can't consume your way to discipleship.