What would entice you to begin attending a mosque? A flyer promising good music, or free t-shirts, a fellowship dinner, or warm welcome? …. would you think about attending? Probably not – a mosque is irrelevant to many of you.
And that is how many in our community view the church – irrelevant.
This may be shocking, but a recent seminar informed us of this new cultural reality.
Another insight is that 90% of new church start-ups, target people who have a basic interest in attending church – who are looking for a warm welcome, friendships, and programs for children or teens. But only 20% of society is cultured to think about shopping for a church.
Therefore, 90% of church outreach is focused on the 20% of society that might be looking for a church while the 80% who are not culturally attuned to Sunday worship – they view Sunday as a day to work, sleep, shop, recreate, or watch sports – go unreached.
However, these 80% who think church is irrelevant also have needs that the gospel can address.
To reach those of our community who are not looking for a church, we’ve been challenged to develop a new “mind-shift”. Traditional methods or maps cannot inform us how to proceed in uncharted waters where the church is seen as irrelevant. Without the maps of tradition to guide us, we are listening to the voice of the Spirit to navigate the waters of the culture. This is where our urban missionaries are so vital. These dedicated individuals and families give care to their neighbors – they are C.A.R.E. teams (Christlike Actions that Restore and Encourage). The CARE teams are engaged in developing neighborhood outreaches and using their homes as a springboard to ministry.
Many neighborhoods do not have strong relational bonds – no sense of community. Houses have become a place for isolation and protection from others. Neighborhoods are filled with strangers. Without neighborhood associations and interconnected relationships, neighbors are suspicious of one another and therefore our neighborhoods are not a place of safety and support.
So, with a deliberate mind shift, our CARE teams seek to change the social environment of their neighborhoods by developing relationships to create safe and helpful neighborhoods. The goal is to establish connections and a sense of togetherness to create zones of real community so that neighbors will give support and share resources with one another. With relationships of care, the Lord opens the door for the Gospel to be shared.
At a recent neighborhood outreach, CARE team Paul and Natalie, were the hosts for a neighborhood gathering in their front yard. The church deacon team came alongside to support this endeavor. A letter was mailed to the 25 families on their street inviting them to attend a “good neighborhood day” festival. Then we hand-delivered invitations to the same families the week of the event. With a bounce house for kids, yard games, and food … we set up tables and chairs, prayed and waited for those who God would bring. Our team had a good time of fellowship while we waited for guests … and we ate almost all the taco chips.
Almost an hour after the start time, we saw a neighborhood couple walking to the event and bringing cake to share. They were welcomed and introduced to Paul and Natalie who sat down to get acquainted. Our food team were deciding to do a store run to get more taco chips when another set of neighbors arrived bearing a bag of chips – God provides. In all 3 families out of the 25 (not a bad percentage) responded, and Paul and Natalie had great conversations. Two of the neighbors had lived
on the same street for over 20 years but had never met before. The neighbors said, “let’s do this again”.
So, since then …. Paul and Natalie have established a neighborhood prayer text-chain and other neighbors are starting to engage in the conversation. As Paul and Natalie take prayer walks, neighbors recognize them and engage in conversation. One of the houses is called a “gang” house creating fear among the neighbors. Paul has begun to converse with members from the gang house. Another neighbor wants to develop a neighborhood watch group – Paul signed up for that. We continue to pray for God to develop the relationships as we continue to do what Jeremiah instructed …
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
We believe as relationships are developed and prayed over – God will lead those who are appointed to salvation (Acts 13:48). They will realize that Christ is not irrelevant.
Seeing how this outreach was not fearful … another of our CARE teams wanted to be next to reach their neighbors and have scheduled an outreach for October 29. Please join us in prayer as we prepare for that neighborhood event.
On another note – the Caleb Center, in partnership with the Maryvale Church, is making progress on the development of transitional housing. Some retired businessmen have felt impressed by God to do something about the homeless situation in Phoenix and the church site meets many of the city’s stated requirements in decentralizing the concentration of the homeless in the downtown area. An architect is developing a site plan for 20 micro houses. Thank you to those who are contributing to the new housing fund. Please continue to pray with us for God’s leadership. Anything that is not done by Christ will fail. We want God’s direction so that transformation will result, and the kingdom of God will be built up.
Thank you for your prayer support.
Caleb Center Director