Last week, I shared my conversation with Peyton Jones about his new book, Church Plantology. If you missed it, you can listen in HERE. This week, Peyton is sharing an excerpt from his book with us that surrounds modern church planting and some great relationship-building opportunities.
Rest of blog by guest-contributor, Peyton Jones.
When the early church was forcefully ejected out of Jerusalem by Saul of Tarsus, they were flung into the far reaches of Judea. Learning to do church in a new context is no joke. Suddenly, unable to go from house to house or temple courts (Acts 5:42) they now had to become innovative with public space.
Our modern day “Judea” is represented by public places (or third spaces) where we take mission to the frontiers beyond our comfortable Jerusalem church gatherings. We have a saying at the New Breed Church Planting Network, “If you want to reach the ones nobody is reaching, you need to go where nobody is going, and do what nobody is doing.” You can’t change the world behind a desk.
The apostles were masters of ministry in public spaces; learning from Jesus to do most of their ministry outside. The first rule of missional engagement in public space is that it should not feel unnatural. If Paul preached in the open air, it was because it was what was natural or expected, such as at the Areopagus at Mars Hill in Athens. If he reasoned in the synagogues, it was because such debates were normally had there. If Jesus spoke spiritual wisdom to multitudes, it was because they were following him to hear more teaching.
I once started a church in a Starbucks in Wales. It rained every day, and because of that, the community hub was in a warm, dry bookstore. The store boasted a large Starbucks to warm the body with coffee, and its wares promised to warm the soul with books. In a culture where it rains every day, sports are a pipe dream at best. Therefore, reading groups were the hot ticket. The reading group we formed provided the perfect opportunity to discuss Jesus, because that’s what you would naturally do in a book reading group when it came time to read the bestselling book The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. On the back of that reading group, a church was planted; unbelievers came to profess faith in Christ, and a multiplying movement was born.
Whether you are joining team sports, reading or walking groups, film clubs, philosophy think tanks, or science discussion groups, you will find that all of these will open up discussions that allow you to contextualize the gospel in modern groups.
5 Key Relationship-Building Opportunities in Your Judea
There are sports teams, CrossFit groups, and individual fitness plans that people like to partner up on. People who take their kids to dance, gymnastics, and soccer games form a type of community. There are play groups for parents, sewing groups, sculpting classes, yoga classes, and an endless list of diverse possibilities. Church planters think like missionaries when it comes to strategic engagement, but at the end of the day, they need recreational breaks as much as anybody. Recreation is there to help you relax from the pressures of life, blow off steam, and have fun with other people. Let your enjoyment of life become part of the mission on which God has sent you.
Art class. Reading groups. Cooking classes. Night school. Many people are always trying to learn more, feed their minds, and stimulate deeper thinking. Public libraries provide opportunities to teach writing workshops or to speak on an area of personal expertise. Going to art exhibits with your neighbors and engaging in discussions about an artist’s work can provide amazing gospel conversations.
One of my favorite outreaches was a film club where the group watched a film and somebody presented a ten-minute talk on why they chose it for the group. Then everybody got to speak about the themes the film dealt with. Morality. Mortality. Such themes abound in movies! Movies are windows into the human experience, and many films feature themes of redemption. If that’s not a gospel conversation waiting to happen, nothing is. After all, everybody’s a critic!
Unbelievers today are socially aware of the conditions in their world and socially awakened to do something about it. Nothing speaks so powerfully about grace as a group of people sacrificially serving others. Often, when unchurched people witness the love of God in action, they are moved to join in and help. Planters may “pick a fight” with one area of darkness in their city such as homelessness or sex trafficking and engage in meaningful mission in those areas. You earn the right to speak to a culture when you serve a culture.
Inviting someone over to eat seems like a big ask, but since you’d already planned to do eat anyway, it’s not a huge investment of time. Instead of an hour around the table, you might spend two hours in conversation with your neighbors.
Frequenting a particular place of business like a pub, skate park, coffee shop, or shared community garden can foster a sense of belonging. These places are all what Alan Hirsch calls “proximity spaces,” or places where the people congregate and establish an unspoken relationship and foster a sense of community. There is something sacred about shared geographic space, as T. Desmond Alexander observes about Genesis: “there is hardly an episode in the entire Bible which does not in one way or another mention the land.”
To ignore these five areas of outreach is to ignore the way that Paul operated when he entered a city. He practiced them all by setting up a booth in the marketplace, participated on Mars Hill, visited the synagogue, and ate with the Gentiles. All of this was strategic.
Practical Tips for Reaching Your Judea
Once you’ve determined to take it to the streets and master the lost art of ministry in a public space, how do you know where to go? You’ll need to assess your daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms like you did in the last section, but this time add another layer. Everything discussed in this chapter applies to both individuals and groups. Let’s take something as simple as enjoying a hot cup of java in a local coffee house and draft a brain-stormed list of benefits, challenges, and church-planting applications to examine if it’s the proper Judea mission.
My Local Coffee House
I like coffee. Coffee houses can be places to chill and relax, or a public space to work. Locals come here. It’s a hub of the community. Work, recreation, and family all come together in places like these.
I’m busy. I don’t have much time to simply chill or read a book at a coffee shop. I have family pressures that make it hard for me to justify a trip like that and prevent me from hanging out for too long.
Perhaps once a week, I could go solo. Another time, my wife and I could grab an hour for a chat, building our relationship together through talking. Lastly, the family could go there for hot chocolates for the kids and coffee for the adults. Three times a week makes us a fixture there. We’d surely build relationships with both employees and regulars, and we’d have the opportunity to get to know the people in our community who use the coffee shop as a community hub. We’d also spend some money on coffee! But again, it’s for the kingdom (wink).
The Church Planting Journey- This book is a comprehensive guide for the church planter. You will find wisdom, systems, and processes that can help you launch well while sustaining your unique vision and call.
The Church Planter Assessment- Are you thinking about church planting or are already in the process? The Church Planter Behavioral Assessment is a valuable tool. To learn more about how you, or someone you are coaching, can be assessed email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Discipleship Difference- an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are.