I’m sure most people who fill the pews most Sundays don’t have any idea what kind of moments are occuring outside of the church buildings that are transforming peoples lives. Most might only realise its going on if that person talks about it, to give a nice little story (to try and raise a few quid) or if by chance on of the people might turn up at a ‘church social event’.
For the rest of the time, most pew filling Churchgoers probably haven’t a clue.
Most of the churches in Perth or Durham have no idea which young people have had conversations with christians during detached work, how many have asked faith questions, how many have reflected on life.
and that would be the same for the mentoring projects, the activities, the school groups,.
and for the conversations between teachers and youthworkers
not to mention parents.
Or would they know about the impacts of 1000’s of conversations by street pastors, or during food bank transactions, or debt advice, or counselling, social justice or homeless work, chaplains in work places, schools & hospitals.
Yes sometimes the church might give financially to these things, on other occasions the projects can feel as though being delivered and organised by christians, that the connection between them and local churches is thin at best. Often, especially the more invisible work, such as detached, can feel like its done despite the church, even if it might also be on its behalf.
This might be the problem for the para-church type organisation, its good works, anti-oppressive practice, non-discriminatory, redemptive relational work – not connected to a local church. yet if the local church had its hands on it, could it be anti-oppressive, redemptive, liberating anyway? Catch 22.
Yet for some, the notion of ‘serving the local church’ is the mantra. But what might that serving include? – helping educate the church to adopt to better ways of maintaining positive long term faith of children and young people, or filling a youth ministry gap with activities and events so that the young people are entertained. Which serves the church better, or the young people of the church, and which serves our own interests? It may legitimately be a combination of some or all of these.
And do para-church organisations have the right to suggest that they can serve the church anyway? service, implies that the server has the power to give or take away that service- do para churches have that power to decide to serve anyway? could it be the other way around? might partnership a better phrase..
Mission and Ministry on behalf of the church, its all happening, its all taking place outside of churches in thousands of ways per week.
Sometimes there arent good stories to tell so that you can be inspired. Often it isnt fair to big the work up because of someones story, that people in the congregation want to hear. Sometimes its more of a slog and a battle to keep the project shows on the road.
Sometimes God is more at work in the places outside than he is, yet there are no songs, no readings and no liturgies. Just Conversational moments where God is embodied and visible in human lives. People are finding faith, people are finding God- and doing this sometimes despite the church not recognising or supporting a particular ministry (especially if its with deemed ‘unappropriate groups, LGBTQ, single parents, young people excluded from school for eg)
Church, please give, acknowledge and support those who might not do mission that you see, but those who act in the world to transform it for all. Maybe it is on your behalf, despite you or to serve you. Its definitely to because God has called people to venture outside and into communities start from there, to new places, so that faith is explored in those spaces.