How many times have you pointed your congregation to Acts 2:42-47 as an example of what the church should be? A community of generous sharing and fellowship, devoted to the Apostle’s teaching. Yet there’s one part we often forget—and I’d argue it’s an important one.
Verse 46a says: Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. Where were the temple courts? They were in public. This is a public faith. Everyone could see. They met out in the common spaces of the community where everyone could see. They were not hidden away, but quite connected with the larger community. And–in part because of that–people were coming to faith.
1. The Invisible Church
Likely your church meets in a building of some kind. That’s okay. But how VISIBLE are you to the surrounding community? Here are two reasons your church may be invisible and how you can work to be seen.
You care a lot… for each other
One of the best parts of being a part of the Christian Church is fellowship of believers. Maybe your church is a place where deep friendships have been established, people respond to each others needs beautifully with prayer and practical help. If people could see how well your community cares for one another, surely they would want to be a part of it!
You’ve worked hard to create programming that connects people to God and one another. A common encouragement I hear from the pulpit is to commit to church on Sunday, a small group, and to service. In theory, this is great. But in reality, that is a lot of time spent at church and with church people. When do people have time to build relationships outside of the church?
How to fix it
Rethink service projects. You may be doing good but are you attracting unbelievers? How can you reframe service projects to prioritize making disciples?
Change the metrics from attendance to health. Attendance metrics drive people toward inward focus. The unspoken belief is that the more you are at church or doing church things, the better you are. It’s not a far step from being bogged down in a works-based theology. While it’s not as easy to measure spiritual, emotional, personal and family health, these are the metrics that count.
Make space for relationships inside and outside of the church. Your congregants balance work and family and church. Does this sound good? It shouldn’t. It’s a red flag for inward focus. Where is the time to build new relationships within the community? When you make space for sports, hobbies, neighbors, school… you make space for people in these arenas to see Jesus.
2. Community Reputation
In this case, your church is visible but that visibility has been negative. You may have a big beautiful sign in front of your church and well designed flags that announce service times and where to park and these are important. But if your church doesn’t have a good reputation in the community these serve as warning signs as people pass by.
Examples I’ve seen are publicly fighting with the city over zoning, being inconsiderate of neighbors with excessive noise or parking that blocks their homes or businesses. Actions like this communicate a lack of care and respect for the community. When this kind of reputation is associated with your church, people only want to know where you are so they can avoid you.
How to fix it
Consider how you’re seen from the outside. One counter-intuitive aspect of Christianity: experiencing God in community is not confined exclusively to people of faith. We are also living alongside people who are not yet followers of Jesus. Our relationship with each other influences and impacts our relationship with God and with the world.
Take the high road. Let’s be honest, taking the high road often means taking the low seat. You may have every right to those parking spots but is that the most important thing? Do what you can to respect and honor your neighbors.
Give back to the community. Look for needs in the community and meet them expecting nothing in return. Is your community filled with families where both parents work? Consider free after school tutoring or once-a-month childcare for date nights. Do you have a large unhoused population? Meals, haircuts, and other self-care services make a huge difference. Maybe you have a growing elderly population. Arrange to hang and take down Christmas decorations. The possibilities to give back and make a difference in your community are endless.
The Church in Acts was far from Invisible
As we know from the experience of the early church: it matters. The early church was seen in a positive light by the community. The church served and benefitted the community at large. As a result, they were enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47b)
The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship that is individualized to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step toward God.
The Guide for Discipling is a downloadable and highly customizable study for individuals or small groups. Based on the 8 areas that Christ helped the disciples grow. instead of fill-in-the-blank answers, you will find open-ended questions that allow for personal reflection and application. The chapters on Authentic Relationships and Community Transformation are especially relevant to what was discussed in this post.