An “In” But Not “Of” M.O.

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While there are many keys to grouplife at crowd’s edge, there might not be anything more important than the ability to be “in the world, but not of the world.”  And let me add right at the beginning, I know this is a challenging issue for many.  But…I am convinced that we’ll participate in connecting the widening 60% (who will never be reached by the attractional model) only when we are culturally bi-lingual.

And let me be quick to note, the fact that you’re reading this indicates that you’re probably already practicing this key to grouplife at crowd’s edge.  Our challenge is almost always a slice of the congregations we serve.  A thin slice whose upbringing (or sometimes their own rescue from the perils of the world) has taught them that the wise thing to do is to be separate; to isolate ourselves from the world.

So…what are we to do about the thin slice?  Here’s a beginning:

First, we need to be sure in our own convictions.  Mine are based on a few important understandings:

  • Jesus was an “in but not of” operator.  You’ll only have to look at Matthew 9:9-13 to be firmly convinced.  By the way, I believe it was Matthew’s own experience of Jesus’ philosophy of ministry that enabled him to recognize Jesus’ compassion for the crowds.
  • We’re to be salt and light.  Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:13-16 ought to inform our interaction with the culture.  Salt must come in contact to impact.  Light must be in the dark to have value.
  • Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is explicit in its request.  “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world any more than I do.  Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world (John 17:15-18).”

Second, we need to choose carefully who our heroes will be.  If including family, neighbors, friends and co-workers is to be a value in your ministry…you need to make heroes out of the groups and group leaders who make that happen.  We get to choose which groups you hold up as examples.  I guarantee you, if you consistently make heroes of the groups and leaders that are inclusive, it will make a difference.

Third, we need to be ready to give an answer to the thin slice.  We can be gentle.  We can be understanding.  But at the same time, if you want to reach people at crowd’s edge…you’ll need to be prepared for the questions and misguided complaints.

What do you think?  Want to argue?  Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.

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