In Christendom many people attended church, sometimes by legal constraint, but more often by social constraint. In this context churches could legitimately speak of faithfully proclaiming the gospel because each Sunday they had gospel-centred sermons. This is no longer the case. We cannot claim to be faithfully proclaiming the gospel to the lost through our Sunday preaching when most of the lost do not attend church in the ﬁrst place. We need to do mission outside church and church events. This is something we need to recover rather than discover, for the modern evangelical movement was born out of a recognition that the UK was not a Christian nation and therefore needed to be evangelised outside of church buildings and services. George Whiteﬁeld and John Wesley preached the gospel in the open air because they were not welcome in church buildings, and the people they wanted to reach were not in church.
We cannot rely on business as usual. We cannot have more of the same. Evangelism must involve a qualitative change rather than simply a quantitative change. One of the common assumptions when people fail to turn up to church is that we need to improve the experience of church gatherings, the ‘product’. We need better music, more relevant sermons, multimedia presentations, engaging dramas. Or we need to relocate to pubs, cafés, art centres. We need cool venues with cool people and cool music. The problem with this approach is the assumption that people will come to church if the product is better. But remember, 70% of the UK population have no intention of attending a church service, and these ﬁgures are even higher among young people.
It is no good blaming the lost for failing to turn up, or bemoaning the drift of our nation away from Christianity. ‘Our persistent “come to us” mind-set suggests that we really believe that people who refuse to come in the front door are beyond the reach of Christ.’ But a farmer cannot blame his crops if he fails to sow and reap. Sunday morning in church is the one place where evangelism cannot take place in our generation because the lost are not there – not until we go out to connect with them where they are, where they feel comfortable, on their territory.
We need to do church and mission in the context of everyday life. We must think of church as a community of people who share life, ordinary life. And the bedrock of mission will be ordinary life.
So, an everyday church with an everyday mission.