Monday, June 11, 2007

Force? Field?

Don't Panic

This is not an official statement of any organization or entity. It is just a bunch of late night stuff that poured out of my head/fingers.
At our church we have been talking about reaching the lost, and the "field" model just keeps coming up again and again. When I ask about the "force" model, I always get the same reply: We want to do both.

But when we talk about evangelism, we always talk about inviting them to church-sponsored events. We talk about reaching out by opening a campus 10 miles in either direction, by making the services more "seeker-friendly", and so on. The priorities seem thus to be:
  1. field
  2. field
  3. field
  4. field
  5. force, if it doesn't interfere with 1-4
  6. field
  7. field
  8. field
  9. field
  10. field
OK, so maybe I'd better explain what I mean by force vs. field, and no, I don't think that the models preclude each other. But something like 90% of our communications seem to be field-oriented.

What I mean by "field" (and I take this terminology from my no-doubt faulty recollection of Jerry Cook's Love Acceptance & Forgiveness) is that there is real estate and there are hosted events, and ministry happens at hosted events, generally on real estate owned by the church. The focus of evangelism is then to get members to invite their friends and neighbors to a church building or a church event. Ministry happens on campus. Want to expand the ministry, you expand the campus, get multiple campuses, acquire (or rent) more real estate, build more buildings, host more events. The flock invite their friends and neighbors to hear the good news as preached by a professional. The field of ministry then is the church campus (don't take me too literally here), and we want to gather the unreached to the field of ministry so that they can be ministered to.

The "force" model, however, says that ministry to the unreached occurs mainly off campus. Evangelism in the "force" model means: the flock are equipped to tell the gospel, and they do not invite their friends and neighbors to a church event until they have started to follow Christ. What happens on campus is that the saints are equipped for the work of the ministry. No non-christian would possibly be interested in "coming to church" because what happens on campus is equipping, training, strengthening of the flock to do the ministry out there. A "force" church would never ask people to invite neighbors to a worship service; rather, they would talk about what each church member could do to make the gospel available and credible to their neighbors and friends.

I believe that MPPC is firmly in the "field" camp. (bet you couldn't tell.) We've been thinking that way for a long time, a really long time. Frank tells me that a cultural change (e.g., "pro"-led to lay-led) will take ten years, so I expect that a field→force model change would take at least that long.

Everybody talks about evangelism in terms of "inviting someone to church" -- whether it's a café service in Menlo Park or the new campuses 10 miles north or south of us.

Some years ago, Carol and I took a discipleship class at church. Why should the laity make disciples? Because Jesus said so (Matthew 28:19-20). So, I asked, if we think that "make disciples" applies to the laity, then doesn't that mean "baptizing them" also applies to the laity? And "teaching them"?

If I shared the gospel with a friend or neighbor and then we went to the beach and I dunked him in the water and declared him baptized, what would MPPC's position on that be? We have rules about these things, don't we? How about serving communion?

There are political issues that seem tied to our denomination -- these issues force us to think about control by professionals.

Well, it's late so I'll stop here. I don't have the answers, but I sense something's fundamentally missing in our discussion.

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