It has always been the intent of Hope Chapel to build a church that isn’t for “us”, but for those who aren’t one of “us” yet. This was one of the key commitments that drove the naming of the church. Although we network with Baptists for mission and ministry, we specifically chose to leave “Baptist” out of our church name. The rationale was that while the name Baptist might attract some, our priority was to reach those who would stay away simply because of the name Baptist. The church wasn’t for us “baptists” but for those who had never experienced the new life being proclaimed and lived out in the church.
I know from experience it is hard to maintain this bent. We “connected” in a time when things we done a certain way, things “felt” a certain way, and we get used to, and comfortable, with it. It works for us. Change, on the other hand, makes us feel uncomfortable, and it doesn’t always work for us. So we resist change. We prefer things to stay the way we like it. But sadly, this saps the church of its power, its mission. The church’s mission has always been to carry on Christ’s mission to seek and to save that which is lost. Once we are “found” it isn’t then just about us. The parables of Luke 15 are witness to this. We “count” the coins so we know how many are missing and start looking for them. We gather in the sheep pen so we can figure out who isn’t in the pen so we can go looking for them. We stand like the Prodigal’s Father, actively surveying the terrain beyond us to see who we can run too and welcome home. The church is about those who aren’t in it yet.
This unblinking focus on those outside the church can only be sustained by focusing on Christ. Christ was always about giving Himself away to others, and it is only by being preoccupied with Christ that we can sustain giving “our” church away to those outside, creating a culture faithful to God’s Word but clearly magnetic to those in an unchurched culture. And just like Jesus had to break cultural religious norms to fulfill His mission, we need to break religious cultural norms to fulfill ours. A quick sample. Traditional religious culture says we attend church to get more “connected” to God. That’s good. But churches focused on outsiders are full of people who understand that they attend church to help other people get more connected to God. They bring folks with them for that purpose. They actively seek out new people at the services to connect with them. Not an earth shaking change for sure, but you’d be surprised how hard the regulars find it to break away from the norm of connecting with those they already know to simply go meet someone new. It is all too easy and natural to make church about us, but culture changing churches make church about outsiders.
I ask for your prayers as I seek to let God use me to renew Hope’s mission of being a church for those outside. I also ask you to join me in that mission.