Current Post-Christian Culture Makes Many Churches Outsiders In Their Own Neighborhoods

Nathan Dean, center, is co-pastor of Edgewood Church in Atlanta, with his wife, Carrie Dean. They believe much of a church’s role is outside its building. (Edgewood Church photo)
Nathan Dean, center, is co-pastor of Edgewood Church in Atlanta, with his wife, Carrie Dean. They believe much of a church’s role is outside its building. (Edgewood Church photo)

At Grace and Main in Danville, Va., organizers have ceded much of their power to the people they came to serve.

“A lot of our leadership is made up of those who are or were hungry, impoverished and homeless,” says Joshua Hearne, a missionary with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship who helped establish the intentional community built around hospitality principles.

The idea is to let the people affected by those issues decide what the solutions are, Hearne says. The concept stems from Grace and Main’s self-perception as a visitor, not a host or savior, in the community in which it exists.

“We very much understand ourselves to be guests in the broader sense of the word,” Hearne said. “We see ourselves as joining an already existing community and that we don’t have all the answers.”

That’s a ministry model that may alarm some church leaders. But it’s also one that most church leaders must embrace as soon as possible, said Rob Nash, an associate dean and professor of missions and world religions at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology.

Nash is taking that message on the road with a workshop titled “Becoming the Other: The Church as Stranger in a Brand New World.”

Nash, who formerly directed the global missions engagement for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, said it means conceiving of church and ministry as guests, not hosts, is no longer a necessity limited to intentional communities and urban missionaries. Ongoing societal views about religion are making it mandatory for even the most established of tall-steeple churches.

Thanks to the current post-Christian culture, he said, most congregations have already become outsiders in their own neighborhoods.

“They really have — they just don’t know it yet,” Nash said.

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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Jeff Brumley

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