Building A Church for the Unchurched – a Kaleidoscopic Equation
Acts 2: 41-47
When you were a kid, did you ever have a kaleidoscope? Remember as you slowly turned the tube, colors begin to fall into place creating a beautiful picture. Look at the picture above and be reminded that a kaleidoscope is made up of broken pieces, and together those broken pieces create something beautiful. That is the way a church is built from unchurched, broken people – a kaleidoscope of equations. A chemical equation is a variable and a constant added to be reacted upon to make something else. A church is a group of broken people who are reacted upon by Jesus Christ to be something beautiful.
What if Jesus came to your house tonight and said to you: “I want you to create a church for the unchurched (broken people) I want you to lead the way to fulfill the Great Commission in Atlanta, in Linden, in Indianapolis, in New York or in your area”?
What would you do? Where would you start?
Would you pray for a vision? I probably would!
Let us use our imagination. You are a fly on a wall looking at what’s going on; you are looking at an old vacant warehouse with a musty smell, cold, and dark. Just a building and not a very attractive building, at that! BUT now something is beginning to happen; people are coming in, carrying chip and dip, covered dishes, drinks, coolers – broken people, hurting people, depressed people, grieving people, crippled people, unemployed people, people from broken homes, all kinds of broken people.
The place begins to warm up, but the actual temperature has not changed, the old building is still musty, it is still a very unattractive old warehouse; but something is happening. What is happening? People are happening!
People feel safe. You notice there is no judgment or No advice being given; people are letting their hair down; being themselves (warts and all). This group does not seem to be organized. It seems to be an informal gathering of some misfits, and hurting people, with tattoos, rings in their nose, shaggy clothes and work boots, just common everyday people you might see on skid row.
Is this really a church group? It seems this group is evolving into relationships. You begin to notice some of them begin to share their hearts; a lady tearfully talks about her parents’ alcoholism, another shares about her family problems; another is at their wits end with a teenager who has run off with a terrible crowd; another shares about having just received a ; another was just told that they could no longer do their job because of an injury; another was just told about a diagnosis of cancer. This just a bunch of broken people beginning to share their own hurts, disappointments, and feelings of hopelessness.
These people have gathered to share what’s going on in their lives; to seek and offer support, and to pray. They begin to pray for those who have shared and there are hugs and tears. They have given and received encouragement.
Does this look like any church service you have ever been to??? Probably not! What is happening is a kaleidoscope of broken pieces which is becoming something beautiful.
What it looks like is the infant New Testament church described in the book of Acts.
What you’ve seen in your imagination is a customized church for the unchurched. Notice several things about this church:
- They don’t have fancy equipment or “sacred” furniture, pulpits, candles, Remembrance table (just a musty ole building)
- They don’t have a praise band or a Choir (no special music along with a light show),
- They have no preplanned agenda (a bulletin).
- No one came with a prepared sermon or words of wisdom.
What we’ve witnessed is a faith community seeking to be linked to God; devoted to each other and to be authentic in themselves. People expressing in action the compassion of Jesus Christ. The kaleidoscope equation.
72% of people during the ages 25-42 are not involved in a church of any kind. If you were a salesperson you would be watering at the mouth at such a large target-market, BUT we are not reaching this untapped market. This market is spiritually hungry, but are Turned OFF to the regular church (the traditional church with its religious systems, church playing kind of like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ time) today. These broken people are looking for something real.
A friend told me: “I’m sick and tired of religion. Of marketing gimmicks and slick productions; of liturgies; words of love with no actions of love.” Religious play acting!
They’re looking for genuine relationships. We know the Power of Jesus Christ is REAL and that He can change lives, BUT the way we offer Him is going to have to look and feel a whole lot different than it ever has had before.
Jesus is the same yesterday and forever. That means He can enter into any age; any generation; and fit right into what’s going on in that age and generation.
During his earthly ministry He taught endless truths of God by:
Talking about wine and vineyards
Sheep and shepherds
Seeds and sowers
Birds and lilies
Foxes and holes
Salt and light
Builders and houses..
Patches and old clothes
New wine & old skins
Jesus walked with people where they lived; He used their surroundings; The little things, the familiar things, to teach the greatest of truths. Jesus did not use the high minded and great theological arguments, he talked to people on their own level in their own surroundings with places they were comfortable with. I grew up in a little wooden white country church, with very little official, authorized forms and rituals, we were common people, and we talked with each other in our common language. Most were farmers and the things that Jesus talked about are common to us. My early pastors were a farmer, a school bus driver, a schoolteacher, a carpenter/building contractor. They did not have college and seminary educations, but they knew how to share the good news of the gospel in ways we could understand.
I still feel a little uncomfortable with a large church or cathedral with a set liturgy – confession of sins, reciting the Apostles’ Creed, thanksgiving, blessings, printed prayers, with a few psalms scattered in and a polished homily from a robed and hooded man of God. I know that this man of God shares the same message I share, but he uses words different from the words I commonly use. I have a pulpit robe with stoles of the appropriate liturgical colors -red, green, white, violet and have preached with the robe and stole on many occasions. If the church normally uses a robed preacher in their services, I wear my doctoral robe and stole in the service. However, normally I wear a business suit with an opened collar, unless the church normally has a preacher with a suit and tie, then I do that too.
Jesus certainly used the normal conditions upon which he was, to minister to people. However, Jesus defied tradition and ministered to lepers (people were unclean and not to be touched or ministered to); Jesus healed on the Sabbath day (which was not allowed by tradition); Jesus never allowed tradition to get in his way and neither should we.
If Jesus were here today, he would be talking about bits and bytes; cell phones and texting; He’d be using Face Book and Twitter, and the Internet. He’d be talking about corporate mergers and downsizing; unemployed and underemployed. He would be talking about what the people were accustomed to what people are talking about.
He’d minister to families torn by divorce, chronic illnesses, alcoholism, and drug abuse. He would walk the streets of multicultural, multiracial, and multi-social communities offering hope amid hopelessness; broken people.
Jesus, if he were here today, would visit the jails and prisons; drug infested streets; and he would listen with compassion to the hurts of mankind. He would be there to pick up the broken pieces to build something beautiful – a church.
If Jesus were here today he would demonstrate God’s healing love and power to the hurting of the world; He would mend broken pieces into something beautiful – a church.
Jesus would show them who He is, a servant of servants; Names and titles mean little to Him; religious forms mean nothing to Him. Doing the same old, same old religious stuff won’t cut it with Him today, just like it didn’t cut in Jesus’ time on earth. If Jesus were here today, and He is here in you and me. We just need to follow His example of ministry.
People have seen more “bait and switch” than they can ever imagine in their lives. It’s going to be hard for them to trust anything the church says, they’re going to have to see the goods – a loving, caring, healing relationship. People (like they always did) like a show-n-tell method of loving, caring, and healing relationships. Jesus was and is the Master Teacher, He used the show-n-tell method; He did it, said it, and followed through on it, and his disciples followed. Kind of like going through a fire academy, the instructor explained how to do it, he did it, and then he instructed the class to follow his lead.
We must learn to think outside the box, like Jesus did. We must hold each other accountable for our actions… because it is our actions…not our words that will communicate the love of Jesus Christ to the world.
Let us keep our eyes on Jesus; let us keep our church like the infant New Testament church we looked at in the book of Acts.
Let us see the broken pieces into something beautiful by the power of Jesus Christ.
That’s the way to build a church for the unchurched!