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I once sat in a room having a conversation with a few folks from my church about how we can better reach out to the community around us. It was a fascinating discussion with some phenomenally creative and expressive ideas of outreach. The potential was mind-blowing and the possibilities endless! I love conversations like that…

At the centre of each of the ideas that were flowing forth was a desire to draw people to us so we could engage with them in meaningful ways and build meaningful relationships. And what an exciting thought! But there was something about the conversation that unsettled me and stirred something within me.

Someone in the midst of our discussion questioned about how we can reach the twenty-something working generation who think they’ve got life sussed. “They don’t want to go to church and are only interested in building their career,” we complained. “How could we ever reach them?”

That got me thinking. It was a fairly simple observation but I realised that the majority of this working generation go to work. I also observed that so did many of us in the room! That was a start anyway.

I kept thinking, wrecking my brain for other creative ways we could reach them. But then it hit me. That wasn’t a start. It was the start. That’s where the mission starts. That’s how we begin getting alongside them.

And if we were fulfilling our calling then there would be less need for setting up the sorts of cafes and events we were discussing.

One of these ideas we were dreaming up was setting up a coffee house environment in our church building. Fantastic idea! I loved it.

But the reason for this troubled me big time. It was simply to get people out of the pubs and into our building. And as the conversation continued, many questions were flooding through my head.

Why can we not bring light to people, rather than always asking them to come to the light?

Why do we create our own little subcultures instead of engaging with the dominant culture?

Why do we always want people to come to our turf? Can we not share the message of Jesus with people in our conversations in the pub or sports club?

Why don’t we all just go to the pub and integrate, infiltrate, be a presence and build relationships there?

Can the presence of Jesus inside us and our Christ-like actions not affect the environment of a pub or bar?

And so I’m sitting there thinking that there are 10 of us in the room. We are the church. Let’s, as the church, go and meet people where they are.

In fact, why do we even need to organise it and begin a brand new programme to reach out in this way? Surely if we as the body of Christ were truly living as salt and light in the midst of our culture and engaging with people, the need for formalised or organised outreach would be diminished.

But perhaps, that’s the problem. Perhaps we don’t feel equipped to do this. Or perhaps we feel that were doing it on our own.

Much of Celtic evangelism focused around cultural meeting points. They entered, engaged with and built community within the gathering points of the day. Maybe that’s why I love the Celtic way so much. Authentic communities who supported each other, shared together, prayed together, and then carried what they contained in their hearts out to the commoner.

Church communities should be an enabler for their hidden heroes to make an impact in their worlds. Perhaps this would drastically alter the way we do church as we fire people’s imaginations and courage to face their worlds head on, encouraging, building up and spurring on our hidden heroes.

Paul would have liked the Celtic approach too. In Acts 18 we see him living with some fellow Jews called Aquila and Priscilla. Community.

The very next verse we see how he’s working as a leather worker alongside others in his community. Carrier.

As well as spending time in his tentmaking work, Paul also finds time to speak in the synagogue once a week. However, this approach soon changes:

“From now on I will go and preach to the Gentiles. Then he left and went to the home of Titius Justus…who…lived next door to the synagogue.” Acts 18:6b-7 NLT

The words “next door” strike me. Paul changes his tact, and instead of preaching in the synagogue, he goes to the house next door. Not content with keeping this good news within a building, he is determined to bring it to some of the cultural gathering points of the day.

So who lives next door to your church? Or in your street? Or what meeting place exists just down the road? Whoever and whatever they are, Peter Neilson lays down this challenge as he reflects on the ancient celts:

“It came naturally to take the positive aspects of culture and ‘baptise them’, even at the risk of something slipping…”

Are we too safe in our synagogues? Where are the modern day Celts, willing to carry their communities into the centre of their culture? Where are the church communities risking it all in order to reach the people next door?

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