Spending some time with a few people from The Crowded House on Friday I was reminded of conversations I've had with members of Reading Family Church. What they had in common was a love of the church. A love that can make people stay in a place, regardless of their employment, and simply because they know they belong to the local church. It's brilliant.
And the question arises, how do these churches do this?
One thing seems to be that they include church in the gospel. There's none of the it's just about me and Jesus stuff that thrives in an individualistic culture. The future has a church - God's plan is to gather a people. It always has been that way since he gave Adam & Eve the cultural mandate on page 1 of the Bible.
I recall Michael Griffiths' Cinderella With Amnesia pointing out that the you's in Ephesians are plural not singular. I'm reconciled to God and to his people, and if I miss the second part of that I'm really missing something glorious about the gospel.
The other seems to be that they require commitment, they promote involvement in the church. The members of these churches have a stake in the church - they don't go to church, they are church.
I'll let Tim Chester continue:
"I learnt early on in church leadership that the way to involve people is to involve them. Do not wait for them to take initiative or ask for responsibility. Give them a job. If you want someone to attend a prayer meeting, hold it in their house! ...I have learnt that many Christians are inspired by having high expectations laid upon them. They want to be part of the battle, not idle onlookers. It is not simply pill on expectations from on high, but giving people a sense of ownership of the mission of the church. We expect everyone to see themselves as a church planter, a gospel worker. We expect everyone to make life decisions with regard to the church and in consultation with the church. We expect people to disciple one another throughout life. We expect people to share their lives with one another. We expect people to be involved in developing the mission of the church. And in our experience people are attracted to this. They want to be part of this kind of community. As for the new believers … they just assume it is normal - which is how it ought to be."And Steve Timmis too, with reference to their new book Total Church (IVP, 2007):