BY STEVE DUNN
When churches think of reaching their unchurched neighbors, they often think of creating programs to attract people into their church buildings. Create the right program, make it attractive enough, and people will come into the church and find Jesus. Tony Campolo says. “The church puts up a sign, ‘Come one, come all.’ Jesus put up another sign. He said, ‘Go ye!” This is called the attractional model and it is meeting with decreasing success, especially in suburban and urban areas of the United States.
The church needs to get out into the community where the unchurched live. It needs to build redemptive relationships with the unchurched. Those redemptive relationships build upon redemptive opportunities. Through those relationships people are led to Christ and brought into the church.
A redemptive relationship is a significant commitment by a Christian to a non-Christian where they share life together on many levels with a large amount of time spent together. Its purpose is for the Christian to speak into the life of the other as you share life with one another.
The church in the 21st century has come to realize that incarnation must be the model. For the authority of this claim, we only need to turn to the example of Jesus himself. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, The Message)
The church outside its walls in action, the gospel lived out in the transformed lives of Christians who are living out in the world and building redemptive relationships with people who may be a long way from considering “coming to church.” Noting that Jesus Christ is the bridge from sinful humanity to a holy God, Dan Kimball says, “The church must be the bridge to the Bridge.” A bridge must be anchored on both sides of the distance to be bridged in order to actually help people “cross over.” (Robert Lewis) Kevin Harney adds, “People need to hear about Jesus, but they also need to see him. As his ambassadors on earth, we are to reflect his love, show his heart, and incarnate his presence wherever God sends us.”
It is vital for us to understand that as the representatives of Jesus Christ out in the world, we must be the “real deal.” We must genuinely be persons transformed by God and following Christ. This is why two things must be true of us as the people of God, the Church. We must be people whose lives are rooted and grounded in the Grace of God ourselves. We are not good people doing a good thing for God. We are forgiven sinners, whose lives have been made new, by the unconditional love of God. In a world where “performance” is king and “measure up” is the command, a fallen and broken humanity hungers for “a taste of heavenly grace.”
excerpted from THE BRIDGEBUILDER PRINCIPLE © 2015 by Stephen L Dunn