This past January, a group of people who had all served in some sort of mission outreach began revamping a small church on the edge of Toledo. The goal was not just making the building more inviting but ultimately to make church more appealing to the segment of the population who are not comfortable in a standard church setting and approach.
In the summer the construction part of the job was finished. We could stand back, observe all that had been accomplished over the months, and play the “remember when” game. Remember when we pulled out that old carpet? When we tore out that wall? When we hung the new light fixtures? When the new appliances arrived?
But that was just the physical labor. It was now just a nicely-renovated building in the same neighborhood and without a ministry. Its tiny congregation still met weekly, albeit in the new setting, but the surrounding population was still unchurched.
You see, for all the hundreds of hours of volunteer work invested, no ministry had been developed.
That “new” setting now sees an evening dinner church on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. This outreach is new, really in its infancy, having only begun in late September.
First, several team members canvassed the neighborhood explaining what the dinner church would be like and delivering cards of invitation. They got some encouragement through those contacts and meetings were started.
So far, there are more team members attending than there are neighborhood residents, but those who come form a core from which we dream of seeing a new worship family evolve.
The approach to worship is rather foreign to those of us stayed in traditional church settings.
When people arrive, the tables are ready and serving tables are laden with food. The invitation is to “Come, fill your plate.” People do just that – fill their plates and feel comfortable going back for seconds. They gather at the round tables, visit, and eat.
Did you notice I didn’t say the meal opens with prayer? Well, it doesn’t. That’s traditional, and we are trying to make a new approach.
Later, while people are still gathered for visiting around the tables, someone presents a message. Again, it is less than traditional. He doesn’t stand behind a pulpit. He doesn’t read from a manuscript. He tells a story from Scripture and draws a lesson from it – a lesson pertaining to all of our lives.
During this time, people are free to get more food if they desire and to move around but, mostly, they sit and listen attentively. One young boy plays a handheld electronic game the entire time. The “service” closes with communion. Again, no pressure. It’s a setting where each one is free to choose his or her level of participation.
The whole outreach is called Fresh Expressions and, through it, we hope to reach the unchurched with the Good News of salvation through Jesus. Perhaps you are called to pray for this new outreach. Please do – for those who attend and for those who facilitate the evening’s events. Jesus died for these folks as well as for you. This is just a different approach to telling others the truth of salvation.