In Matthew 16 Peter is commended for his declaration of Jesus’ Messianic identity. When Jesus responds with a promise to “build his church” on the rock, he isn’t talking brick and mortar. Jesus isn’t sharing a new vision of a new religious organization. Jesus’ movement didn’t start with a mission statement or with a church building. But, the mission of God, which began back in Genesis 3, had a new visible expression in the followers of Jesus.
In 2011, compelled by a simple question, God’s mission and our part in it became clearer for us at Foundry Church. The question was asked, “If our church closed its doors tomorrow, would anyone in our community miss us?”
We were pretty certain that the members of the church family would miss us–but what about the people in the community around us? Would the quality of life of the people around us be affected if we were to close our doors? Did the church really matter to anyone beyond our walls? We were reminded that the mission of God was not to build a religious organization, but to send people out to build up the community.
We had seen great success in building a large and growing church in the Northwest part of Houston. We had recently launched a second campus that many would consider a highly successful new church start. Yet, we were reminded that the calling of God was much more than a vision for church growth or indoctrinating people in a way that makes them better church members. It is about the larger story of what God is doing to transform individual lives, our community and the world.
All of this led us to ask slightly different types of questions. Instead of simply asking how we could attract more people to our services and programs, we began to ask why we did what we did. We asked questions that led us to discover the needs of the community around us and how we could better be part of what God was doing to fix all that sin had broken in the community around us. We decided not to settle for simply building a new facility in a growing suburban area. We were led to also launch a 501c3, Cy-Hope (www.cy-hope.org), aimed at leveraging resources and volunteers to make life better for kids, particularly in more economically disadvantaged areas in our community.
I believe we need more churches to reach the people who aren’t being reached. We need more churches starting new sites to reach more people. Most of all though, we need churches, new and old, to carry the hope of Christ to people that are broken and hurting. We need to shift the narrative from one that is centered on questions regarding building the church to questions about being part of God’s Kingdom Epic. If we do, God can use us to build up the communities around us. If we have the courage to step forward and follow where he calls us, God will build a people and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.