Step into the shoes of the average non-Christian in your suburb for a moment. Imagine how they’d react if they woke up tomorrow and your church had vanished. Would they feel much do you think? Would they even notice?
The tragic reality is that its very easy for a local church to become a more or less self-sufficient island. Effectively cut off from its community. Doing the odd letter box drop at Easter and Christmas. Maybe turning up on people’s doorsteps occasionally. Or holding a stall at a community festival. But making no significant or lasting impression. And falling far short of Jesus’ insistence that like a city that can’t be hidden because it’s so brightly lit, those in the kingdom will offer impossible-to-ignore testimony to the glory of God by our good deeds.
This is deeper than an image problem, isn’t it? It’s a full-blown credibility gap.
The authors of The Church of Irresistible Influence have a simple but profound word for this situation: Start working on bridge building. Don’t just continue to fortify and ‘build up’ the island. Re-establish your credibility by doing good in impossible-to-miss ways.
Of course, bridges cost — both to build and to maintain. And they often bring change. Threatening to disturb our comfortable island lifestyles. But they also offer concrete answers to the biblical challenge: ‘Don’t cut yourselves off from the world (like a sect). And don’t blur the boundaries between church and world so that no difference remains. Instead, be in the world but not of it — for the world’s sake.’
Do you have a sense of what might be different about your church if it was connected to its community by a significant bridge or three? What sort of bridges have you seen or tried to establish?