The church can no longer fling open the doors and expect the crowds to rush in. We are no longer a “come here” organization as is evidenced by the large number of people who will not or no longer “come here.” But what is the alternative? The answer to fulfilling our call to reach the world is to go to the world. Jesus didn’t instruct the disciples to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the world to come to them; he instructed them to go to the world. Though our going will look different from that of those first disciples, the command still stands. The task then becomes to identify what a “Go-To church” looks like.
The Go-To church lives by a different set of questions and rules. The Go-To church doesn’t ask, “What can we do to get people to come here?” Instead they ask, “What needs do people out there have that we need to meet?” The Go-To church doesn’t ask, “What about our members?” The Go-To church asks, “What about the people who live outside our doors and in our community?” The Go-To church doesn’t ask, “What will make our church grow?” It asks, “What are Jesus’ priorities in our community and world?”
The Go-To church also lives by the rule of relationship. Everything is about relationship, and that means that the Go-To church goes to the community to build relationships that meet the needs of the poor, marginalized, disinterested, and disconnected. They don’t assume that those people will begin a relationship with the church, and they become the church that builds a relationship with them.
Exactly how these questions are answered and this rule is followed is as unique as each of the communities in which local churches exist. One community might answer those questions and live out this rule of relationship in a very different way than another community. The key is to answer these questions in the community where you live.
There is no program that you buy or designation you earn by completing a checklist of practices or acquired resources. The Go-To church is a strategic way of thinking about the heart of the gospel, the heart of your local church, and the unreached and disconnected people who live in the communities around your church. It is a way of customizing the mission and ministry of your church to connect to the specific culture and nuances of the people you would reach.
Courtesy of Faith & Leadership www.faithandleadership.com. The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Bryan Collier is founding pastor of The Orchard: A United Methodist Congregation in Tupelo, Mississippi. This article is an excerpt from his book The Go-To Church: Post MegaChurch Growth (Abingdon Press, 2013). Lewis Center Director Lovett Weems says that Collier’s book describes and makes the case for a special type of multisite ministry designed to reach people not attending church and shaped to fit the distinctive culture and needs of the locale. His model does not require a major metropolitan area, fast population growth, and high personal income often associated with such initiatives.