We not only need to take down the denominational walls, but we need to see the other ways we have divided the Church and excluded genuine followers of Jesus. In my mind there is no such thing as “parachurch”. It disturbs me that so often we talk as if the Christians who work so tirelessly in ministry organizations are somehow not the “church”. Here we could probably borrow from missiologist Ralph D. Winter’s categories of “modalities and sodalities” when he described how in the early church the movement had two important and not mutually exclusive modes. The local congregations were the modalities and the mission teams like the ones that the Apostle Paul led were sodalities. (that is a very spare attempt to summarize well-thought-out chapters.) Often believers who work in so-called “parachurch” ministries, are more actively engaging with society in one week than a local congregation does in several months. Obviously we need to include them in our over-arching strategy to reach our cities for Christ. In fact many of them have the expertises and skills we need.
How about the “House Church” movement? I was at a meeting recently where one well-connected leader wondered if we didn’t have 10,000 believers in our city who were involved in organic forms of community versus our typical congregation form. Many of these disciples are invested in a deeper form of engagement with their own neighbourhoods or even cross-cultural mission work. New forms of urban monasticism and incarnational community are growing and attracting committed believers. We need these folks to feel connected to the larger work of the Spirit in our cities. This will be a challenge for many of our pastoral leaders. The very presence of such a large number of non-congregational believers is seen as a verdict upon the current local church institutional approach. Rather than trade slings and arrows, we need to affirm that House Church believers and congregational attendees have voted with their feet about where they feel most comfortable in serving Christ.
Then there are the “de-churched” or perhaps the “dis-churched”. We don’t have a lot of census information here in Canada, but George Barna has done a lot of research about this phenomena in the U.S. For more see his article on Attenders and Avoiders. His book “Revolution” is all about the people who would rather be the Church than attend a church. As I have met these folks in many settings over the last few years, I find that many of them were formerly the most engaged and active members of their local congregation. Sometimes they were the pastor! This is a huge talent pool of disciples who are getting over their detox period and are ready to be re-deployed into meaningful service for the Lord. Just don’t ask them to teach Sunday School or join the Ushers team.
Just imagine what would happen if we empowered and harnessed everyone. That includes congregational church people, House Church folks, and currently un-churched believers. We would double or maybe triple the followers of Jesus who could work together for His kingdom in our cities.