inside outside

11 06 2013

One voice says I should spend all my time with those outside church. Another voice says I should spend all my time with those in church.  A third voice say too many ‘shoulds’ leads to a hardening of the oughteries. I need a lie-down. 

One of the great dilemmas of the church leader is this: who do you spend more time with? Those in the church, or those outside of it? Pastoring and discipling believers, or making disciples of unbelievers? Bishop Nick Baines said this at my licensing: you are not a chaplain to a congregation, but vicar to a parish. 

the community is out there

the community is out there

It’s hard not to spend all your time with Christians. Committees, groups, studies, friendships… It’s easy – so easy – to find yourself in a bubble where you forget everyone else has life and work outside so actually might not be so concerned with the minutiae of church life as us. Thank God!

On the other hand, most vicars see a lot of people outside the church, or on the fringes. At funerals, baptism classes, school assemblies, pastoral visits, community panels, school governors etc where people aren’t even interested in our coffee rotas. How rude. 

Some of us are more comfortable throwing ideas around amongst those with a strong faith already, pushing at the boundaries of conceived thinking and creatively sharpening each others prophetic giftings. Some of us are more at home with those who are undecided or lapsed or simply never thought about faith – convincing, living it by example, making Jesus known where he is not…

And most of us do a lot of both. I spend a lot of time with people with fledging faith, or fragile faith, or no faith at all. When I was in a different church we spent a lot of time sharing ideas. I miss that. But I hardly knew anyone outside church. Now, I don’t get so much sharing ideas, but a lot more encouraging those on the edges. I will miss that too, whenever our next calling comes.

I know a lot more people now who don’t follow Jesus than I ever did before. Like everyone else in church. 

Some vicars, controversially, are even able to make time to be in clubs outside church (here’s to you Sutton Runners!). They’re obviously not working hard enough (is what the inner voice says). How wrong is that voice. But how loud.  

Where would you rather your leader spend their time? Pastoring and discipling (and organising) believers, or making new disciples? Because what we do with our time impacts you.

 

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8 responses

11 06 2013
cress

When church people kick the bucket, you cant always rely on them to have church families to take their place, if you dont spend time with everyone else then a) there might be no church left and b) You’d be missing out on the community and the world as a whole and that would make your stance on issues somewhat stunted.

11 06 2013
edge

I think vicars should probably spend most of their time on Facebook, and perhaps watch a bit of cricket at the weekends.
it’s people who make everything complicated. Try and avoid them if you can. if God had meant us to spend meaningful time with other people, whether Christians or non-Christians, surely he wouldn’t have allowed us to invent Facebook and cricket matches?

12 06 2013
Nathaniel Martin

Build up those that are already in your church! I believe that there is no point in evangelising and bringing new people into a church where the people already there are spiritually malnourished. Building people up in the church would encourage those same people to reach out to others. Grace and peace 🙂

12 06 2013
Aran

Nurturing the church members should be something a church should do themselves with only a light touch and strong guide from the minister. Our church is currently asking, why is only the dog collar important enough for …? ie why do some people seem to feel it doesn’t it count if you the person who comes doesn’t have a dog collar? Our minister is stretched and carries guilt at not being able to do it all. Her lead in our ministry is needed outwith our church as well as within. WE are the church, what need we do to care for, nurture and lead, our church body?

12 06 2013
Kevin

So there’s two opposite views already!

12 06 2013
Ruth

I am totally wrangling with this. I see the church becoming a holy club if we don’t look outside and reach out into the community. I feel passionately that we don’t have too many church meetings so that we have the time to hang out with non christians and just be around and not too busy.

15 06 2013
Philippa

If you nurture church members then you already have a multiplication. Ssy you have 200 church members who are out in the community then they will come to the church to be refreshed and refuelled. Surely the church leader’s role is to do that first and foremost.

15 06 2013
Kevin

Thanks for all your comments and votes, this is a really evocative subject! I can really see the point in investing in the congregation, who are then out in the community doing the stuff…. on the other side of that, as a vicar you have access to the community in a way others don’t, and in a small church community like ours, to make an impact you have to do some it through them and some on your own….
Also, a church community like ours is fragile, and so cannot be expected to take on roles in the community alongside managing tricky lives…. hence me thinking about this sort of thing! Keep the thoughts coming…

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