This past Sunday, I had the honor to be introduced as the new Pastor of New Church Venues and Church Revitalization. (You know you wish you had an awesome, but yet meaningless until there is something tangible that gives it meaning, title like me.) My family stood in front of four different worship experiences at Matthews UMC and watched as people in attendance smiled widely at our arrival. We felt very encouraged and well received through the experience.
One worship experience, The Deep, features a unique combination of live drama, videos, and impressive sets all to reach children and families. During the experience, the children’s ministry director presented an illustration on Jesus’ metaphor of the church as the light of the world. Rather than a candle, however, the “shepherds” (mostly teenage servants who help out with this ministry) began handing out hundreds of neon glow sticks. The already low house lights were then turned off as hundreds of young people waved their glow sticks representing the light their lives should radiate as those who follow Jesus.
The use of neon glow sticks to represent the church as the light of the world is a fresh and meaningful way to express one aspect of the gospel. Also, there was one group of shepherds who were heaving bright shining neon glow sticks up to a few children on the walking track above the gymnasium which houses The Deep. These shepherds were giving it all they had for the sake of sharing the light of the world with those who were farther away than the centralized group sitting in the gym.
This experience illustrates exactly the motivation behind 801South. We will use fresh expressions of the gospel so that more people, especially those unfamiliar with the current methods of church, will find a community in which they feel comfortable in being inspired, engaged, and challenged. Not only will we use fresh expressions, but much like those shepherds sharing the light with the marginalized children banished to the balcony, 801South will work hard to reach those who may be currently far from God and the church. Some of this hard work will be simply in pushing against the natural drift toward complexity and inward focus that occurs within any organization.
How have you seen churches use fresh expressions of the gospel message to reach those on the outside?