For the last five years I have watched ministries wrestle with the need to meld prayer and mission. “Cell Groups”, “Simple Churches”, “House Churches”, “Alpha Courses”, “Seeker Friendly Services”, etc. are all programs put in place by ministries to make the church more accessible to neighborhoods, workplaces, and of course university campuses.
The Goal is Universal…
…to attract non-believers and to see a melding of prayer and mission among professing Christians as well. However, the majority of these ministry programs miss the essential ingredient of embedding the “churched” in the society around them. Instead of spending significant time in relationships with non-church goers, or hanging out in settings often avoided by Christians (pubs, bars, parties, etc.), the “churched” are content to try and extract non-believers out of their normal surroundings and into a “safer” one where they can be discipled.
Problem is, very few people who do not believe in Jesus will want to spend time in a setting where they are expected to worship or talk about him for hours on end…at least not consistently. For this reason, atheists and agnostics may visit a bible study or cell group once, then leave never to be seen again. Christians must instead learn to step into the “secular” world…the non-church affiliated world, if they are to see evangelistic fruit born in this day and age. To do so is scary and intimidating however, as it requires boldness, a readiness to be fully rejected, and a steep learning curve in the face of temptation.
At the University of Texas, I have had the privilege of watching Christian students embrace the concept of mission. Choosing communities to invest themselves in, they have made the effort to walk past the walls of Mega-church meetings, House Church meetings, and para-church ministry meetings, in an effort to reconnect with the social and pre-professional world outside. These same Mega, House, and Para church gatherings that non-believers are so hesitant to visit, are the same ones sending these Christian students out, believing that as they make more time for the world outside the impact of the Gospel will also go with them.
Sports Teams, Fraternities, Academic Societies, and Student Social Organizations are all being reached by these Christian students and their “Missional Communities”. The hope, is that one day at UT, there will be no registered student organization without a group of Christian students that is praying, serving, and sharing the Gospel within it!