Thursday, 26 May 2011

Commuter church?

We live in an age when travel is no big deal, people think little of getting in their car and driving for half an hour or more to go somewhere.  (Though I have to say I wonder if that's going to change as the price of petrol goes up!).  That curiously is creating a new sort of church dynamic, the commuter church.

Take church A it is situated in an average sized town and as the bible is taught faithfully week by week people begin to join it, some come from a drive to the East others from the West and so on.  If those who come along think nothing of travelling 25-30mins you can have people in the same church who live nearly an hour from each other.  This commuter church faces a number of opportunities and challenges for ministry.

It will not be possible to gather people to every event centrally, and if the central area is the sole basis for evangelism then the communities where those commuting come from will go unreached.  If you try to do mission in these different areas the challenge is getting people to then come centrally, a 30 min drive, Sunday by Sunday.  So how do you make the most of the opportunity for gospel ministry across the town?

Above is a diagram of Big Church/Little Church model, or the Hub with Missional Communities model.  People gather together centrally whenever that may be, still normally on a Sunday.  But the church establishes small groups that area geographical and essentially function as church for the area.  These groups are much more than home groups or bible study groups, they function as missional grace groups or community church.  The Bible will be taught in them, they will provide pastoral support for the members of that group, they will also be evangelistic in attitude and outlook so that everything is done with the expectation of believer and non-believer being there, they will also love and serve their community via acts of ministry.  Very naturally over time these small groups as they grow may become churches of their own.

The central meetings are where the 'Sunday' Bible teaching is done and where support of those leading the missional grace groups takes place, where practice is shared, where prayer for one another takes place, and where resources are created and training provided.

Fascinatingly as I've been thinking about this its struck me this is not a new idea at all.  Its what Paul describes in Acts 19 as he talks about ministry in Ephesus, Acts 19:10 "This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord."  Paul preaches and teaches in Ephesus others saved, equipped and enabled by that preaching take the gospel to places like Colossae and Laodicea and churches start up, which in the Epistles we then see Paul continuing to resource, equip and train.

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