If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got. That’s a popular saying around the church where I work. We believe we’ve been called to be in the center of the marketplace in the cities where we serve to make the name of Jesus Christ famous. We’ve been called to go into all the world and preach the message to every tribe and tongue and to find a way to reach everyone where they are. Unless we become creative and innovative in the ways we reach out and unless we do different things as a church, we will only reach the people we’ve reached in the past.
I live in Washington DC. It’s diverse city with people from all over the world who come here for education, career, politics, international policy, and internships—to name a few. Reaching such a diverse city requires extraordinary measures: doing things we’ve never thought of before and taking risks to try things the church wouldn’t normally try.
One of the things we experimented with is meeting in places that aren’t like the traditional church at all. That includes coffeehouses, movie cinemas, and more recently, historic concert halls and nightclubs. DC has a vibrant nightlife full of special events, concerts, parties, sports teams, as well as international recognition for a city that is relatively small in comparison to other major cities. Unfortunately, so many of the spaces and places that make DC so vibrant to its culture also point people away from Christ rather than toward Him.
So many times, as Christians, we’re scared to go to the dark places because we think it will compromise our witness. Rather, we should run toward it because the light that lives inside us shines more brightly in the dark places. That’s exactly where the church needs to be.
Let’s find the places people feel the most excited about, the most comfortable, have the best times, and feel the most alive. Let’s use those places and spaces to change their lives forever.
Let’s have church in the largest nightclub in the city and use the huge PA and the moving lights on the stage and over the dance floor and make it really cool. Let’s rent a historic theater that is managed by another concert promoter in the city that owns a club that consistently receives acclaim as one of the best venues in the country and actually take the time to learn from them, try to understand why they rock so hard, and make that a part of how we do church.
I know some people are thinking, “We don’t need to have a huge PA or tons of lights to have church.” That’s true; you don’t. But I would encourage you to learn what you can from the creative culture that surrounds you and use that to communicate the message better. I’ll stand on the fact that our message is in no way compromised by the places and the spaces where it is communicated. In fact, in some ways, the message is amplified.
Think of the people you know personally, who would never set foot inside the church as you know it. Also, think of the analogy that we believe that sin is a disease – an epidemic if you will – and it’s an emergency. If someone is sick and dying, we don’t just say, “That’s a shame. There’s a hospital a few miles up the road where you can get help.” No, you call an ambulance and meet that person exactly where they are and give them the support they need and get them to the hospital. This is what the Church needs to be. It needs to be a place that is reaching people where their need is when they need it. We need to take the church to places people are rather than expecting people to just walk through our traditional doors and form themselves into the typical mold of what church has been for a long time now. We can’t just operate as four walls serving the same purpose week in and week out anymore.