Get Out of the Sanctuary & Into the Streets

Get Out of the Sanctuary & Into the Streets

February 17, 2016 by

What if we stopped marketing our church services and focused exclusively on getting the word out about the gospel—God’s message of hope for humanity? Would the way we do church change?

For years many churches have operated with a model that invited people to come to them. But tides are changing. Culture has shifted. As a church worker myself, I’ve realized we can no longer assume people will come to us—wandering into our church buildings or even attending well-intentioned activities hosted on our properties.

Tides are changing. Culture has shifted. We can no longer assume people will come to us.

Pew Research Center reports a rapid increase in the amount of “nones,” those who prefer no religious affiliation. Those nominally faith-based are shedding the “Christian” label, choosing to self-identify as “nothing in particular” rather than be formally associated with the church.

In this new societal atmosphere the church must regain trust, re-establish the definition and nature of “Christian” and go out to where people gather.

Does this shift mean we abandon our church buildings? No. It’s good to have a place to get refreshed, but we don’t want to stay there.

This is how it can start. Invite your church members to leave the church property and become the church body: many varied roles, but one mind focused on God’s mission. Look for ways to intentionally engage culture relationally.

They engage in real, honest conversations about life, family, work and spiritual beliefs—all over a beer.

Real World Examples

Now how does this play out practically?

It’s people going to their workplaces, their government meeting spaces or even their local bars where there’s good music and just being who they are, as God designed them to be. We can define what being a Christian means by first living it out.

Here are a handful of examples I’ve seen in action:

Loving the Neighborhood

Led by Pastors John and Natasha Candler, Sunland Foursquare Church members in Southern California have been cleaning trash from gutters, sidewalks and street sides for the past year. Their motive: they just want to show their neighbors that they love their community. Now they’ve been invited by the city’s Beautification Committee to officially join forces with city members and park rangers to clean the area’s biggest wash before El Niño floodwaters hit. One repeated act of love has opened doors to partner with local government, park services and neighbors to serve big and introduce people to a kind of Christian who gives with no strings attached.

Sending Out Disciples

At Hillside Foursquare Church in Reno, Nev., senior pastors Louie and Joni Locke treat their congregation similarly to how Peter treated the cut-to-the-heart crowd in Acts 2. They don’t keep people busy at a church hub—rather, church members are sent out to their city. They’re equipped with Sunday sermons, a tight-knit community and recommended reads like Jerry Cook’s The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary and Into the Streets. And in Reno where longtime locals, experimental artists and university students are burned out on religion and institution, this approach is exactly what people need. There are no fliers, no “outreaches” and few collective service projects. For Hillside members, it’s all about taking Jesus to people one-on-one. It’s building bridges in everyday, ordinary conversations that bring about radical life changes over time. They keep it simple, and they make themselves available. In doing so they’re showing God’s love to people who often feel forgotten and actively discipling people before they even accept Jesus as Lord.

Housing a Pub

In Portland, Ore., people gather in pubs, creating an organic opportunity for Josh Pinkston, minister at The Oregon Community church, and fellow church leaders to engage culture. To do so The Oregon Community’s Pastor Ryan Saari started the nation’s first nonprofit pub, The Oregon Public House. Anyone is welcome, and every drink purchased funds a great cause. While city dwellers seek refuge from rain and make connections across tables, church members like Josh staff the pub. There they engage in real, honest conversations about life, family, work and spiritual beliefs—all over a beer. They’re making one-on-one interactions that otherwise would have never taken place, all thanks to thinking beyond the building and going out to the community, ready to serve with no agenda.

As churches we can learn to take the focus off ourselves—our programs, our events, our services—and place the focus back on God, the real hero here.

Is this new? Nope. Jesus did it all the time.

How Can You Do It?

Nationwide people are realizing the hunger for authenticity in our culture. So, we adjust. We become people who bring the church with us, rather than getting people to come to church with us.

What can this look like as your church gets started?

  1. Assess your area. What does your neighborhood need? Where has God strategically placed you—personally and as a church body? Do you know why?
  2. Equip your congregation. Do church members see the value in going beyond Sunday services? Can you give examples of what this could look like? How are you leading the way and modeling this lifestyle?
  3. Dial into God’s design. How can you encourage people to get creative? Do you spur others to ask God how he has designed them and for what purpose? Are you activating and resourcing people as they’re being sent to their city, coworkers, friends, etc.?

Everyone can be equipped. We just have to be ready to pour into people and show them they are sent to do the same for others.

Is it new? Nope. Jesus did it all the time. But have we been doing this all along? Somewhere I know I forgot how. It’s time to reclaim God’s vision to live as people who are sent on his mission—every day, every moment, no matter where we are or who we’re with.

Let’s be people who invite others to know the hope that only God can bring. Like Abraham, Moses and Paul experienced, God will show us where. We just have to be ready to go.

Post By:

Ally Siwajian

Ally Siwajian is the digital engagement and communications liaison for a church denomination based in Los Angeles. She also tweets personally about mobilizing Christ-followers, being a native Nevadan and reveling in all things nerd here: @AllySiwaj.
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