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,
Dave Thomas says
Church attendance is plummeting across the country. As a result, many churches are closing their doors. The institution of Church is changing rapidly.
Central church is still vital and strong, but it needs to look at a society that is less inclined to go to church in order to stay strong and vital. Four acts of love (Fearless Conversation, Radical Hospitality, Genuine Humility, and Divine Anticipation) can be focused steps that help people find there way in to the life of the church. This needs to happen beyond the Institution of the church and happen with each of us as individuals. It can not just be new programs at Central Church or the heroic individual efforts of Pastor Chris or Pastor Dale. We need to explore together how all the gifted people of Central can reach out together with these four acts of love. It is exciting to think what can happen in Traverse City and beyond when we do!
Joan Brown says
Hi Pastor Chris.
I would love to join you, but I have band practice in Northport on Mondays. Maybe I can come for some of the meetings. Keep up the great work!!!
Chris Lane says
PS – Here’s a 2-minute Vimeo video that features Lifetree Café staff explaining what they mean by “fearless conversation”. Worth a listen. I’d love to hear how others understand this value of being open to others.
Erica Kozlowski says
I would absolutely meet and discuss this book! We need more of this positivity in our culture! We need to show people that Church is where all are welcome and all are accepted as they are! Bringing this conversation outside of the walls of our building makes it easier for people to commit and not fear as much, but you are still showing these values as you walk out the door … We have these conversations people are afraid to have, we invite people in when others are afraid to, we listen to the stories of the broken and oppressed and we learn from it, and we trust that God will show up in these conversations to help us along the way! The fact that we all want to step out of the boat as a staff to make our community better one step at a time attests to the values we hold dear!
Walking into this new position to raise children to be the next generation of Christ followers is scary, but also very eye opening. We need to start here to teach these values and give long lasting positive memories of what it means to be the hands and feet of Jesus! Teaching our kids to live this way could never be a bad thing! But knowing we have the resources and the passion to start this young makes me love what we are doing here at Central Church!