09 October 2012

"Talking to folks — not organizing them"

I'm feeling inspired today by a recent blog post by my friend Gary Manning, who's obviously been thinking about the same kinds of things I've been thinking about ever since returning from the Episcopal Evangelism Network's Mission Development Conference a couple weeks back.

Here's a taste:

But the people who live near our churches aren’t generalizations. They are very specific! They have specific histories, specific challenges, specific disappointments and specific dreams. Many of them are our friends. We like them and they like us. It would seem these folks could give us some first person insight as to how a community of faith might engage them or be beneficial in their lives. Through such conversations we might better understand how we could more effectively serve our neighbors — you know, the ones Jesus called us to love?
Now if we actively engaged such a project, here’s what I’m pretty sure will not happen. We will not see a dramatic increase in Sunday worship attendance. We will not see the annual operating budget balanced. We will not suddenly be flush with volunteer labor to do all the church chores that have multiplied, like dandelions, in local congregations through the years. So if we’re not going to get more people, more money or more volunteers, what would happen if we risked talking to our neighbors? 
To be honest, I’m not sure, but I’ve decided I’ve got to try and find out. It’s time for me to get out of the office and into the field. It’s time for me to start asking questions and spend time listening to what people have to say (even if some of what they say may not be easy to hear). I don’t expect such an experiment will come easily. There’s always plenty of e-mails to answer, books to read, meetings to attend and blog posts to write. Somehow, though, I will have to break the gravitational choke-hold of busy-ness and get on with the business of Jesus, which seemed to include a fair amount of talking to folks — not organizing them. From time to time I’ll post an update about what I learn. For all of the uncertainty I have around this project, I am, becoming clearer and clearer about one thing.
We church types can no longer simply be content with talking to ourselves.

Check out the whole thing here.

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