After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
Around two years ago I found this little punk rock record store and coffee shop hybrid called Rabbitfoot Records that was full of energy and people that would likely never enter a church. Every Friday I setup my office at a table in this shop, buy some tea, write, and people watch.
Sometimes the most convicting and spiritual part of this whole endeavor is the drive to my make-shift office. I drive down a beautiful city street lined with old oak trees and historic victorian homes. As I approach the downtown district, I pass two blocks that are stacked with churches. In the span of two blocks I pass 3-4 churches with beautiful if not imposing buildings. If not for the signs on the old brick walls, one could be forgiven for assuming these were all one large church.
The drive is beautiful and the churches are full of stories of the Kingdom come and miracles that I will never know.
But then I arrive at my coffee shop office.
I setup my office and look around at people loved by Jesus, people whom Jesus is inviting into his Kingdom. And then I begin to wonder, are those churches with their beautiful buildings present? Are they here? Are they (the community of saints not the institution) present in the city they call home or are they inviting the city to their buildings and programs?
I don’t know the answer to these questions.
What I do know, or at least am strongly convinced of, is that the role of the church as institution will serve some people well but the growing majority will no longer be served by institutional-campus based churches.
With the rise of unchurched and dechurched populations, the churches that will thrive will be networked and nimble. They will be churches that are engaging communities on mission through faithful presence. The thriving churches of our culture will practice being sent, being present, and being hospitable. The pastor will become a discussion leader, provoker of imagination, and interpreter of a localized culture.
May our churches, pastors, and communities have the courage to enter into a culture as the presence of Jesus. May we witness to the present Kingdom as we point to a future reality not yet realized. May we embrace the reality that we are exiles and reveal the Lordship of Jesus in this foreign land we call home.