Guest blog: Andy Frost on ... the missing ingredient for successful mission
Relationships and belonging are critical factors if churches are to reach their communities in a sustainable way, believes Share Jesus International's Andy Frost ...
I’m an evangelist and I spent lots of my time helping churches think about how they can connect and share the Gospel message with those in their communites. I often begin this process by taking a church leadership team on a slow reflective walk around their area, asking God to reveal the needs of their communities to the leaders, and the kind of connections that can be made.
And over the last few years I have seen churches connect brilliantly and present the Gospel faithfully. What’s interesting is that some churches have grown numerically whilst others have not. Some churches have poured time and effort into mission but their churches have not grown. They have seen people make a response to the Gospel but, in the parable of Jesus “… when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” (Matthew 13:6)
Both types of church agreed that mission was important.
Both knew they had to connect with those outside their gatherings.
Both were willing to invest time and energy in to reaching people.
But the difference between these two types of churches is how they saw mission.
The churches that have grown saw mission as an opportunity to invite people to come to a faith in Jesus but also to belong to their church community. They held on to their doctrine but they were willing to re-think some of the ways they were doing church to accommodate those unfamiliar with some of the jargon and the tradition of how they had been doing church.
They took time to explain why they did what they did. They were willing to answer questions during the church service. They were willing to adapt their worship style to connect with their new friends. There was a depth of relationship with those they had connected with, that meant that they were becoming part of the family.
But the churches that have not grown saw mission as a bolt-on to what they were already doing. Mission became an activity they did, rather than relationships they were investing in. The church gatherings were static. They were unwilling to change their church meetings to accommodate people who had no previous experience of church. They were beholden to their traditions. They failed to help their new connections become true disciples. There was no warm welcome – just an expected behavioural code they were expected to follow.
When it comes to faith-sharing, mission is not enough. Our gatherings need to offer a warm welcome to newcomers with the opportunity to form deep relationships. Our gatherings need to foster a deep sense of community, that is so often missing in a digital age.
Our gatherings, against the backdrop of a broken and divided culture, need to prophetically paint a picture of one family of different ethnicities and ages and backgrounds. Our gatherings need to be places where we can all be known and belong. Our gatherings can be the missing ingredient.
- Andy Frost is hosting Ekklesia, an overnight conference for church leaders, to explore together, the power of the gathered community. https://www.sharejesusinternational.com/ekklesia/