I was thinking about how churches grow, the gospel spreads and how you begin to impact a city with the love of Jesus the other day. I was actually thinking about that twice…
First, I am always thinking about it in terms of Pontiac. Much of my role at Micah 6 Community thus far has been to get to know Pontiac so that we can begin prayerfully considering ways to serve the community. As we are preparing to move there, begin working there, begin serving there we are always noticing when people say, “I wish that Pontiac had…” or “I wish someone would…” or “we need…” We are always listening and thinking about the future for what that means for us and how we can impact those needs.
The other context I am thinking about that in is in East Lansing. I have been working with Greater Lansing Church of Christ, a small congregation that wants to make a greater Christ presence on the Michigan State campus.
This week I gave a talk, suggesting strategies, ideas, encouraging them to make some changes and applauding the things that they are doing well. I tried to make connections about easy things that they could do that would go a long way for college students. I reminded them that college students love free meals, a mission to commit to, cheap rent and someone to let them do their laundry for free. Like I said, just suggestions. At the end I asked for input.
One of the few college students, still here for the summer, raised her hand. “Go for it,” I said.
“The way that I got plugged into a church here in East Lansing,” she started with, “was an older couple, who were strong Christians rented their basement to me for $200 a month. That allowed me to have a family upstairs when I needed it, alone time down stairs when I needed it. Before I lived with them, they let me come over for lunch and do my laundry for free.”
She went on. “Then there was a group of college students who would just have fun. They all went to the same church, but we weren’t churching, we were just hanging out—bowling, sitting on the lawn, eating lunch.”
There is some church planting book—I forget which one—but it talks about points of contact. The gist of the idea is that your church should create multiple ways to intersect with a single person. So, they have a friend in their study group from your church, then someone else from your church can host movie nights at their house, and someone else can host weekend barbecues. The idea is that this does a couple of things 1) Turns every day things (barbecues, movies) acts of mission, showing church members that every day life is still part of the Christian walk, 2) creates more connections for a person to feel more comfortable coming to your church, 3) expands your network of non-christians which tends to be a real problem for Christians.
It was all very tedious. It was well laid out and revolutionary. But I think this can be said another way:
Be a friend.
Just be a friend.
There are a lot of Church planting books, talks, blogs and ideas out there about how to reach people with new models, ideas and crud that can all be boiled down to those three words: be a friend.
The girl at church wasn’t crediting a model, she was saying that she made friends, and as friends those people took an active interest in her well-being and needs and helped her meet those.
Micah 6 Community isn’t looking solely to great models, new writers or “experts.” Those things have been helpful, but we always prefer to be friends. Because your friends will tell you what their needs are, their hopes, wishes, dreams and concerns. And from there you can determine what the needs of your community are.
Once you become friends, walk with that person and experience and share life with them, then you earn the right to have to most important conversation with them. I think that you need to be friends first, before having that conversation and that friendship will further influence the direction of that conversation. If I had a model, that’s what it would be: be friends.
But sadly, “Be Friends” won’t sell books, get me a speaking tour or build a mega-church. But I think that it will build a healthy church.