Under The(os) Influence

Writing today in response to couple readings. One is Phyllis Tickle’s book, Emerging Christianity: What it is, Where it is going, and Why it matters. Other one is a facebook post by my friend, Linda Mattila, a new pastor serving a small congregation in crisis within an aging subdivision outside Dayton, Ohio. That church’s name is Good Shepherd United Methodist. I’ve enjoyed speaking and fellowshipping there several times in recent years.
Tickle references a publication by the Anglican Church back in 2004 which is available for free download using http://www.chpublishing.co.uk/uploads/documents/0715140132.pdf. To me this publication is worthy of discussion by any church such as Good Shepherd that is tasked with envisioning and planning for a 21st century church. That document’s full title is: Mission Shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context. In her own book, Tickle references the 3 mission fields available to the Mission Shaped Church: 1-The un-churched who know very little about Christianity and are basically neutral, 2-the non-churched who are basically for Christianity but very neutral to the idea of church attendance, and 3-the de-churched who are former Christians so turned off by the institutional church that they have basically tuned out period.
In light of my own blog theme I’m calling “Under The(os) Influence,” I offer up the opinion that we Christians, like God Himself, have no control over other people’s minds and bodies. Out of our fears, we may attempt such control over others. But fear is not what God’s about. Rather, God is about loving others in ways that attempt to influence them to become their best selves for eternity. That’s Christ’s own mission and His call to the church as His missionaries. So question one, if one buys into the tri-fold mission fields of the Anglican Church report is: who can we best influence with our love in this community: the un-churched, the non-churched, or the de-churched?
The first act of love for anyone we wish to influence is the act of listening. Hence, I would suggest any church interested in being “mission shaped” for the future might want to have a focus group of persons who self-identify as un-churched (don’t know and don’t care about Christ or Church), non-churched (know Christ but don’t care about Church), and de-churched (knew Christ and knew Church but no longer care about either).
I’ve always liked that old line about folks not caring how much you know until they know how much you care. Best act of love and caring may well be listening to what others do care about and why, plus what they don’t care about and why. Perhaps that comes from questions at a focus group. Perhaps from a panel presentation at a retreat. Either way, to me a key piece of practicing Godly influence in the example of Jesus rather than what we wrongly imagine to be Godly control (doesn’t exist) over peoples’ minds and bodies is to listen to people first, pray for them second, and plan with them third.
Church planning, or Church planting, for the 21st century will succeed or fail based on this choice each local church must make today: will we live under God’s loving influence, or will we live under our own fearful control? Bottom line choice is between fear, which drives us to seek control over people, places, and things; or love, which frees us to live out God’s own influence over people, places, and things. Today’s prayer: Dear God, which of these did you choose when you were incarnate here on earth in the body of Jesus? And which of these would you hope we will choose for ourselves in the days ahead? Amen.

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