I get excited when I see Central Church connecting with new people outside of our walls. Just recently I’ve seen this happening with children during VBS week at Clinch Park beach, youth inviting friends to a party at the home of a church family, and new guests among hundreds gathering at Church In The Park on a Summer Sunday.
But I get especially hopeful when Central folks invite friends to The Parlor Bar for our Lifetree Café open group. This open-to-all gathering is taking a hiatus for July & August, but this is where guests are greeted, watch a brief & inspiring video story , then discuss questions about things that matter in life. There is no preaching, no unity of opinion, but an openness to others as we imagine Jesus might do. Lifetree’s vision is “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome; your doubts are welcome. Were all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
In their book “Why Nobody Wants To Go To Church Anymore”, Thom and Joani Schultz look at how the American church has lost influence and relevance in today’s culture. Many reasons have led to this shift over the past generation, but the Schultz’ (who also helped design Lifetree Café) urge the Church to respond with “4 Acts of Love”.
So, when those turned off by the Church say -“I don’t want to be lectured. You don’t care what I think”, we can offer back “Fearless Conversation” that seeks to understand where another is coming from.
When those who haven’t found a church home say – “I feel judged”, we can offer back a “Radical Hospitality” for all points of view, an acceptance even where endorsement isn’t possible.
When those burned by the Church say “Church people are a bunch of hypocrites”, we can offer back “Genuine Humility” that makes space to learn from others.
When those not on speaking terms with God say “Your God is irrelevant to my life”, we can offer back “Divine Anticipation” that trusts the Holy Spirit will bring good from all conversations when we are loving.
The Church is at its best when we meet people where they are, look for common ground, and demonstrate the same compassion that God-in-Christ has shown to us. That is where one can see the Gospel is real, and life change can occur. So I want to put out a challenge for us at Central Church. Who can you invite into meaningful conversations that matter, even “fearless conversations” outside the walls of our church? Who do you know who does not currently have a faith community you could invite to sit with you at our next Lifetree Café when we resume at The Parlor Bar on September 11th (& the 2nd & 4th Mondays that follow)?
I am excited for how this is one great example of the Church seeking to be relevant to the culture that often regards organized religion as irrelevant. So what do you think? I’d like to hear from you on the following questions, or anything else stirring in you about being the Church outside the walls.
What excites you or makes you curious about the 4 values we can offer to our culture: Fearless Conversation, Radical Hospitality, Genuine Humility, Divine Anticipation?
Would you be open to meeting to discuss this book & consider action steps?
Where else in our community might Central Church sponsor events & create conversations that invite others in?
How do you imagine Central Church ministering to our town & region into the next 10 years? 50 years?
Thanks, Central Church, for being curious with me. It’s a great time to be in ministry in this place.
Serving a fearless God with you,