In a January 2009 lecture given at Talbot Seminary, Charles Van Engen observed that of the 168 hours (24x7) in any given week active church members will give five of those hours to the church. That low number shocked me. In the 1980’s I had heard that active members would invest up to twenty hours a week. Prior to Van Engen’s remark I had understood it had slipped to ten. Regardless of the number it appears that the time those most committed are willing to invest in the local church is eroding.
My question: What are we encouraging them to do with the other 163? I understand a segment of those hours will be for food and sleep, but there is a huge chunk of hours we need to leverage. How these hours are leveraged would appear to be built on two potential philosophical foundations:
Retrieval: This is getting those hours back for the church. We pull, prod and plead to have them show up for, serve at and support church ministry.
Retrain: This is giving them tools to serve Christ and the community of faith within the realty of their everyday life. It is helping them see their daily living IS ministry.
When a church places their emphasis on retrieval they may get an additional five plus hours, but that still leaves the larger segment of congregational participants with more time outside, then inside, the church. And this is as it should be for Christ has SENT us.
We need to retrain our people for more missional effectiveness. We need to provide tools that will equip them as ambassadors. We must take a sledgehammer to the wall that divides the sacred from the secular, church from society and personal faith from public values. Our people are indigenous in their environment. We must give them missionary eyes. Here are few suggestions:
Put an emphasis on members as missionaries. Believers will never be effectively mobilized apart from a deep sense of service. Salvation is both personal (we have been saved from our sin), but it is also communal (we have been saved to engage in purposeful service in society). The church is to equip its people for this saving purpose.
Teach on missional living. Missionaries are not sent ill-equipped. A new approach must be taken to teaching those in our communities of faith. Believers must be encouraged and taught to look at their neighborhoods, workplaces and communities with the eyes of a missionary.
Release people to engage their culture. When we release our people with limited time resources to choose community involvement over church only participation we are moving toward a missional mindset.
Downplay involvement in “church only” activities. A church that keeps their people so busy with “church activities” will effectively remove them from the culture they are to engage. If you have so many church activities that it leaves your people little time or energy to be with their neighbors, you may have too many activities.
Place a high value on church planting. New churches are in desperate need of launch team members to help establish a base for effective ministry. Existing churches are populated with potential launch members. “Without regard to locations, missional churches are actively releasing members to new ministries and new churches. Their passion is to see the churches grasp the principles of multiplication” (Rick Rusaw).
Determine to be a transformational community. Transformation can only happen up close and personal. Yeast transforms dough when it is intermingled with it, not simply set beside it. A church will only be able to transform communities when they intermingle themselves in those communities.
What are you encouraging your people to do with the other 163 hours? Do you need to change or adjust your approach?