Yesterday a pastor friend shared a challenge he is issued to his staff and lay leaders. It's an excellent example of helping a mainline church rethink its identity and mission. (It ties to the discernment of the "local predicament" circle of the Kingdom Concept) The church's name is not referenced to protect the nature of the missional discernment project.
Dear Co-Workers in Christ,
As an officer of the church your primary directive is to make disciples and to make decisions that make disciples. In other words, officers empower the congregation to look more to Jesus for guidance and more like Jesus in ministry.
Given that understanding, I want to invite you – challenge you, really – to join in an experience to which I have committed myself and the entire staff. Between now and the first Sunday in August, I want you to use one hour each week in a discernment project. I want each church officer to join our staff members in taking one hour each week to meet God at Wal-Mart.
That’s right. No joke. You are assigned to meet God at Wal-Mart. Here are the details.
Once a week, go across the freeway to the Wal-Mart. Spend an hour roaming the aisles and watching the shoppers and employees. Do not go in to shop. Do not get your groceries during that time. This is about people, not merchandise or purchasing or recreational browsing.
I want you make note of the people – their culture, socio-economics, dress, expressed values, perceived attitudes, what they seem to be interested/disinterested in. I want you to imagine what their lives are like leading up to their Wal-Mart visit and returning from their shopping.
As you observe the people, seek God out in prayer, asking, “God, what in the world does our church have to offer these people? What do we have to offer them and how would you want us to do that?” Then listen, and take note.
If the assignment is too confusing or complex, then do this – ask, “Where do I see Jesus today here at Wal-Mart?”
My hunch is that some of our assumed values and valued programs don’t/won’t play the same in that context. God might have something to say about that. We may get some reality checks, with may receive some insights and inspirations, we may even meet God at levels/dimensions where we have not before.
If you get bored with Wal-Mart or feel going there is too repetitive, I offer some alternatives. You are welcome to try the same thing at one or more of these places – Goodwill Industries Store or the nearby bowling alley.
You may want to take notes, keep a journal, or simply e-mail me as you have discoveries.
Hoping you see Jesus anew, Your Pastor
What have you tried like this? What are some examples you could share of a missional mainline?