If it isn’t plain to you that the church today isn’t the Church that the Bible talks about, let me give you a telling example.
The organized church is invitational. In other words, they exist to get people in the doors. The programs, personnel, and promotions are prioritized to maximize their attractiveness and get people to “give them a try” by showing up to something. Everything hinges on people coming to the building. Invitations are extended like commercials for a retail chain and success is defined by how many people show up.
This number is critical. The “experts” can—based on attendance—predict with some certainty how many will come back, how many will become regular attendees, and more importantly how many will become contributors to the cause. It’s all very scientific.
What’s wrong with the invitational church model? It is very American, very consumer driven, and very self-centered. While churches talk about “reaching” people, the fact remains that very few people are actually “reached” by the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Most new attendees are church consumers looking for the latest “style” as they change from one congregation to the other. But this is of only passing concern to the established church … it doesn’t matter who comes through the doors as long as they do; they must have people in order to survive. There are bills to pay, positions to fill, and don’t forget the self-importance generated by being part of a “growing” church.
Instead of the invitational model of church, the true Church was founded on a missional model. This model means that every believer is on a mission. Repeatedly, New Testament believers are encouraged to live their lives in such a way that they make a difference. The missional Church doesn’t say to the world, “Ya’ll Come.” They aren’t interested in getting someone into a building. What the missional Church is interested in is getting someone interested in the mission of Jesus. What was his mission? He came to save, to rescue, and to reclaim humanity. He sought to alleviate suffering wherever it was found. He went about doing good, no strings attached. Jesus spent his time outside the confines of the formal church and instead mixed with people—disturbed, neurotic, confused, ashamed, hurting, longing, and hopeful people.
The invitational church says, “Come to church.” The missional Church says, “We are the Church and we’ve come to you.”