Since we’re facing a bit of a reshuffle with our Restore Communities, it’s a good time to remember the purpose of Restore Communities, why they are the main thing for us, and how to get one going.
Purpose of Restore Communities
The primary purpose of a Restore Community is to participate in what God is doing in the world. St. Paul writes, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5.19-20). Our task is to go where God is reconciling the world to himself and participate as ambassadors, as communities through whom God invites prodigals to come home.
But God does not simply sit and wait for us to come home. God in Christ came to dwell among us, to seek us out, and to suffer with us whatever we are facing. In Christ we see a God of hospitality who comes to meet us where we are. This is also the task of the church if we are to be the body of Christ. A Restore Community is simply a vehicle to help us be the church among our neighbors and for our neighbors. It’s about relationships–with God (up), with one another (in), and with our neighbors (out). It’s not about getting the program right or managing a schedule or planning an event. Those are all means to an end, so we use them if they are helpful and discard them if they are not. The end is restored relationships.
Why Restore Communities Are the Main Thing
We call Restore Communities our primary expression of what it means to be the church because they are our best tool for doing incarnational mission. In other words, they help us to go be Jesus to our neighbors and to live like missionaries. Restore Communities have a few advantages over Sunday morning worship when they become our main thing.
Restore Communities reach people who would never come to church. Some surveys show that as many as 2/3 of unchurched people would not respond to an invitation to come to church. The situation calls for an approach that brings the gospel to our neighbors, not one that waits for a small fraction of them to make their way to us.
Restore Communities can grow exponentially. A model that prioritizes Sunday morning worship ends up dependent on the pastor and a few leaders, so it’s centralized and also tends to be hierarchical. The decentralized approach of Restore Communities means that everyone is active and, therefore, the church can go viral. Far more impact for far less money.
How many mega churches does it take to change the spiritual climate of America? In the last ten years over 1,000 mega churches have been started, and at the same time there’s been a 20% decline in church attendance. We can double down on the attractional, programmatic approach, or we can try an approach that puts the church out among our neighbors for our neighbors.
How to Begin
God is the one reconciling the world, so we begin with listening. We pray to discern what God is doing. We listen to our neighbors and our city to learn what the needs are and to see people. The calling of a community grows out of mission. The question is, “Who are we called to bless?”
The community organizes itself around the mission God is calling it into. If your goal is to do community, you won’t always get mission. But if your goal is to do mission, you’ll usually get community as well.
So we focus first on being ambassadors of reconciliation, then we form a common life together around that mission. Our covenants spell out what we will share in common, whether prayer, work, meals, money, etc. The covenant binds us together, but is also open to others.
God is reconciling Alton to himself. Let’s go be a part of it.