At some point over the Easter weekend, I started thinking about where the main events of Easter took place. Passion week begins with the Triumphal entry on Palm Sunday. The scene is outrageous as Jesus is the focal point in a massive public outpouring of affection and celebration. Count one public event. Jesus goes from there to the Temple. Rather than a safe church service, He makes a whip and drives out the money changers. What's always been interesting to me is that He's been there many times, but on this day, He addresses the corruption of the church culture. Count one church event.
The next few days are spent with His disciples. It's one massive download of teaching and encouragement. Count one for personal time spent with His disciples. On Thursday the disciples are instructed to rent a spot to celebrate Passover. That evening, Judas betrays Jesus in the Garden. Count two events in a public place. From there we go to the trial before the High Priest. (Count a second church event...)
From there to Pilate (3rd public event) and from there back to the square where the people chose between Barrabas and Jesus. From there to the streets of Jerusalem where Jesus carried His cross on the way to Calvary. (Public events 6. Church events 2, if you are keeping score.) From there to the Garden Tomb where Jesus lays for Friday Night, Saturday and early Sunday morning until He is raised from the dead. After that, He's seen in the garden, on the road to Emmaus (that's 7 appearances in public places) and then closes out the day with a visit with the disciples behind closed doors. Let's call that a church event.
By my count, that's 7 public events and 3 church events over the course of the most important week in Christendom. Do you think that there might be something important in those numbers? I do! I believe that God is pointing us to a key place in our society where He is constantly at work in the lives of people.
It used to be that the church was the centre of our culture and social fabric and that fulfilling our goal of reaching people was relatively easy. We were engaged and connected and for the most part people fell into our lap because they had a connection to us by default. The world has changed and more and more we find ourselves on the edge of the culture and disconnected from people who are wired differently than we are. We have to find a way to reverse this trend.
I'm convinced that the key is to become effective in the marketplace. It's the place where people spend the bulk of their time and where relationships are easily developed. Church leaders need to find ways to help their people to begin to live and work with a missional focus. Leaders can set the pace by intentionally engaging with people outside of their church. (Sports teams, service clubs, community and recreation groups.) Groups will be glad to have the opportunity to access your expertise and community insight. From there, it's a matter of being intentional about your relationships. Show people you really care about them. Invest in their lives. The church can manage for a few hours a week while you invest your time and energy into your community.
My greatest surprise in transitioning my ministry focus over the past 5 years is that God is constantly at work in the lives of people in the marketplace. Our part is easy. Watch and listen for the signs that He is at work and then track with Him. The journey is nothing but exciting! The rewards are out of this world!