Christians must take the gospel as Jesus said, but should also build bridges across the chasm that exists between non-believers and believers. However, tradition is a barrier. What are the things that need to change?
The average church building is in use on a Sunday morning for only two hours, then maybe for a Bible Study two hours midweek. Why only two hours? Why only twice a week at most?
While the church generally is unimaginative, others get busy. In the centre of Sydney, Australia in the 1980s were two buildings almost adjacent. One was an old Congregational Church. It had a sign fixed to an old iron gate saying “Sunday meeting at 10 am,” followed by the minister’s name. The rest of the time it was closed.
The building nearby was the HQ of a well-known cult. It had four storeys, in use seven days a week, and often with lights blazing late into the night. Their workers would solicit people on the streets then take them back to the premises for coffee, biscuits and a “spiritual test.”
The cult was using their premises to ultimate advantage; Christian churches should do the same.
Many expect non-members to come in on a Sunday morning to hear a sermon. Some do, but not enough. The church premises should be used often to build bridges in a social sense.
Why not a monthly barbecue in the grounds for the general public? Tell them it’s free, and they’ll come. Then give a short gospel presentation. Yes, it will cost the members for meat and sausages, but what price a soul saved?
There might be a weekly movie for neighbourhood kids in the church hall. That could be on a Saturday afternoon. Advertise it by mail-box drop or an outside sign. Make it entertaining, with Tom and Jerry cartoons or Mickey Mouse, but throw in a Christian dvd now and again. Or get a few cheap old computers and let the kids play around with them—giving a short Christian message at the end. Put on refreshments.
What about opening up the church hall once a week to oldies in the neighbourhood? Let them come and converse, play darts, chess, etc, give them a cup of tea/coffee and biscuits (cookies), a listening ear. Have tracts available on display. It all helps to bridge the gulf.
If the church has outside open space, use it for regular games afternoons, again for the kids. Some will be brought by parents won’t they? That gives the opportunity to converse, to let them see Christians are human too, not a bunch of “religious robots.” What will follow naturally is a casual invitation to come on Sunday morning, or for them to bring the kids to Sunday School.
From the pastor downwards, isn’t it time to truly love the neighbours in the community by being more imaginative? Some churches do it - and thank God for them.
The foregoing ideas require people power, effort, organisation. Yet with willingness, a change in attitude, outward (instead of inward) thinking and a little imagination, a lot could be done to build bridges, and to reach out. Isn’t that what Jesus did?