I've been doing a lot of thinking about missional ecclesiology over the last few months and one of the things which has emerged for me is a deep questioning about how much energy churches should expend in inviting non-Christians to services, to the point I wonder whether alternate worship services should be restricted to initiates.
How is NOT inviting people missional you ask?
Bear with me for a moment.
At the heart of this is a re-examination of where the church service fits within church life, which I have tried to illustrate here.
In attractional churches, the church services are the primary context for evangelism and the primary gateway through which people are connected into cell groups and other aspects of the community life. The services dominate and mediate the life of the community. There is consequently great pressure on services to be as accessible to non-Christians as possible if they are to grow. Is it any wonder they have become entertainment driven ... audience driven? And cell groups have little incentive to engage with the world beyond, their only "misisonal" job is to invite their friends to hear the professional evangelist at the service. Is this really the way things are supposed to work?
In missional churches a different dynamic comes into play. Because the church is engaged as a community in the wider community of the culture, other times become the primary context for social action and welcoming non-Christians into experiences of Christian community. Less expectations need be loaded onto a single hour each Sunday. Resources may be freed up. There is space for the rites of the church to resume their original status, as the inner mysteries of the church.
Think about these dynamics. One significant consequence is that communication patterns are forced to change. Sunday service bulletins are not a good way of informing a missional church community about what is going on in the life of it, when only the hard core attend it. I am sure you can think of more consequences. Everything needs to be rethought in a missional church.
Now I want to introduce some other stuff I have learned from engaging with other religions. The fastest growing religions in Australia, Wicca and Buddhism, reserve many of there deepest mysteries and rites for initiates. They do not water their rites and practices down to make them accessible for casual visitors, yet these movements are growing far faster than even Pentecostal Christianity. Is that not sufficient demonstration that welcoming services may not be as universally expedient as we have been led to believe?
Now I am still working through this. There are consequent implications and loose threads I still have not followed all the way through. What about funeral and wedding services I hear some people ask. I don't know yet. But I thought I'd post this regardless in the interest of stimulating dialogue.
Now what stimulates this thinking? The question of whether a missional cell group can be grafted onto an attractional service. Some say blended approaches can work. Others aren't so confident. I still don't know that for sure. But I am sure seeing clear problems.