“They’re a Christian, so why don’t they get to Sunday worship more often?”
“They go to church, listen to sermons, and read their Bible, so why aren’t they experiencing deeper change?”
These are just a couple of the questions that have burdened me for quite some time. MainStreet is casting a fresh 2020 Vision to more effectively reach and form people with the teaching and healing message of Jesus. Here’s an overview and some reasons behind it.
Why do we need fresh vision and new ministry models?
Interest and openness to faith and spirituality is on the rise, yet Sunday morning church attendance is declining. Instead of coming to church to explore the teachings of Jesus, spiritual seekers are more likely to turn to Google or YouTube. Believers are attending Sunday worship less frequently, and are being influenced and “discipled” more effectively by the secular media they consume all week long than by one or two sermons they may hear each month.
Furthermore, “singing and sermons” alone rarely lead to the deeper transformation of “heart, soul, mind and body” (Mark 12:30) many need and want. More information does not result in transformation. Dynamic Bible teaching aimed at the mind needs to be accompanied by more holistic spiritual practices aimed at the heart, soul and body.
In short, the church’s teaching is not reaching far and wide enough to engage spiritual seekers beyond our walls, and our teaching is not reaching church members deep enough or often enough to bring transformation and healing.
What’s wrong with the old ways?
Despite these clear facts and cultural trends, many churches still have a Sunday-centric model and a sermon-centric approach to formation. We still invest much of our time, talent, energy and resources into the Sunday morning service. Speaking personally, I’ve been putting many hours each week into sermons that 1/3 of my congregation will miss on any given Sunday. We’ve been spending most of our budget leasing a building we use mainly on Sunday for an hour.
Furthermore, the Sunday centric model assumes people are moving toward the church when many are moving away, and expects people to come through the front door of Sunday worship before they can discover the other classes and growth opportunities most churches provide. But what about those who won’t come on Sunday, but still are open to the transforming power and healing of Christ?
What if we flipped the front door and changed our delivery method? What if we found ways to engage seekers and active believers with the teaching and healing message of Jesus beyond Sunday morning? What if we spent less time and energy lamenting those who aren’t coming on Sunday, and instead found new ways to engage with them where they are at? What if we offered more holistic healing pathways and counseling resources to do what sermons and Bible Studies cannot? Let’s look at the ministry approach and priorities of Jesus himself.
A vision patterned after Jesus’ ministry
Jesus’ ministry can be summed up by two main priorities: “He went about TEACHING and HEALING” (Matt. 4:23). As people come into contact with our churches, are they having life-changing encounters the wisdom and wholeness Jesus offers?
Following Jesus’ two-fold focus, MainStreet is 1) reimagining teaching and discipleship for an on-the-go, on-demand culture — going beyond the Sunday service and sermon; and 2) providing more holistic spiritual pathways and personal coaching to foster deeper healing and the transformation of “heart, soul, mind & body” (Mk 12:30). This two-fold focus is represented in the graphic below by teaching “sparks” and healing “pools.”
Discipleship in an On-Demand Culture (“Sparks”)
Instead of just drawing people through the front door of the Sunday service and banking everything on the sermon, we want to offer daily “sparks” and “digital bursts” that go beyond the sermon and engage people during the week/month long—in Huddles, on Facebook, etc. We want to create, curate and proliferate these sparks into the “digital marketplace of ideas” (cf. Acts 17:17) in more convenient on-the-go formats such as podcasts, audio devotionals, videos to supplement the sermon, social media engagement, as well as prioritizing face-to-face gatherings such as Lifegroups, Huddles and Alpha.
According to one estimate, the average American adult consumes over 11 hours of media per day listening, watching, reading or generally engaging with social media. The average church-goer who attends and hears two sermons a month will get just 12 hours of Christian teaching the entire year! Churches and pastors are deeply deluded if they think a sermon-based formation model is going to compete with the “discipleship” influence our daily media is having on us. What if pastors spent less hours preparing a sermon, and more creating and curating solid digital content to engage people between Sundays?
Each of these “sparks” bring the teaching of Jesus to where people are currently at, and each has the potential to be a bridge to lead them into the church community and Sunday worship gathering.
Holistic Pathways and Coaching for Spiritual Healing (“Pools”)
Sermons and Bible knowledge are great, but they aim mostly at our head and aren’t enough to transform the “heart, soul, mind and body” (Mark 12:30). For too long, we have applied three songs and a sermon like band-aids on broken hearts that may require deeper inner healing and ongoing care. For years I have been referring people to Christian therapists, only to be told they just can’t afford ongoing therapy even if they’re willing to seek it.
In a culture seeking after specialized care (fitness coaches, nutritionists, etc.), why doesn’t the church offer more targeted care for pressing needs? Instead of hoping people will “come to Sunday worship,” why doesn’t a church promote a parenting class or marriage enrichment workshop to the broader community? What if there was a church in town known for helping people find affordable therapy by setting aside a “counseling sponsorships” budget? What if we had AA meetings in our space?
For these reasons, MainStreet is forming a Spiritual Coaches Network of trained therapists, spiritual directors, Holy Yoga instructors, pastors and speakers, to offer their skills and personal guidance to MainStreeters and the broader community. We are are setting aside an office and budgeting to make 1-on-1 coaching, counseling and spiritual direction accessible and affordable to all who desire it. Our network of coaches, counselors, collaborators and consultants is already growing, and we thank God for their specialized gifts and expertise.
Throughout the year, we will promote “Spiritual Formation” classes and workshops, retreats and special seminars that invite us to recover the ancient contemplative practices so neglected by Christians during the last 500 years of sermon-centric spirituality. Moreover, we will no longer wait for people in need to come through the front door of a Sunday service to discover these spiritual growth opportunities. Each of these offerings can be a “healing pool” flowing from the river of God’s grace and love to people wherever they are currently at, whether or not they ever “come to church” on Sunday.
“The angel showed me a river with the water of life… It flowed down the center of the MainStreet. On each side of the river grew a tree of life… The leaves were used for medicine to heal…” Rev 22:1-2
How will we fund the Vision?
MainStreet wants to put our money where our mouth is, and put more of our budget toward teaching and healing ministry, and less toward our Sunday service and monthly rent. For this reason, we will be moving our ministry operations to the beautiful St. Martin’s-by-the-Lake Church in Minnetonka Beach in 2020. In this warm and inviting setting, we will offer pure and simple worship in a historic 1888 lakeside chapel, and enjoy a serene retreat setting for our offices, counseling and spiritual direction, and other ministry offerings at a fraction of our current rent.
MainStreet’s unconventional model and mission has been impacting lives for years, but comes at a financial cost. We have been unable to sustain our ministry on in-house tithes and offerings, and remain dependent on outside donors to continue our mission. We are grateful for those who have chosen to support MainStreet as a local mission outpost, and we hope you will renew your commitment as we launch into a new season of ministry with a bold new 2020 Vision!
These are exciting times for the mission of the church! But to echo Jesus, the harvest is plentiful but the methods have been too few and outdated. Almost a decade ago MainStreet was conceived (and named after) a vision to be a church that doesn’t wait for people to come to us on a Sunday morning, but who bring the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus to “the marketplace day by day with all who happen to be there” (Acts 17:17).
We think culture has finally caught up to our original vision, and the time is ripe to at last fulfill it as we begin a new decade. Will you join us and invest in this vision to reach more people with the teaching and healing of Christ in a confused and broken world? We are trusting God for $60,000 in outside support to fund this exciting vision in 2020.
Will you support MainStreet by donating online here?
You can read more about the biblical foundations of this vision in a series of posts called “Jesus on Main Street.”